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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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March 1, 2022


Raoul Urges Schools to Evaluate Disciplinary Policies
for Potential Discriminatory Impacts

Chicago  — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala, today announced the state’s first guidance for school districts to ensure that disciplinary policies do not violate civil rights laws. The guidance is aimed in part at addressing the connection between exclusionary school discipline practices and increased rates of incarceration, often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

The guidance is a resource to ensure public K-12 schools and districts in Illinois meet their legal obligations under state and federal civil rights laws. Under the law, schools must administer student discipline policies without discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and other protected characteristics. Raoul and Ayala are urging schools to reevaluate punitive and exclusionary disciplinary policies, which rely on suspensions or expulsions and disproportionately impact students of color, as well as students with disabilities and other marginalized students. Instead, Raoul and ISBE recommend that schools take a trauma-informed approach to school discipline and prioritize equity for all students.

“Data shows that there is a connection between exclusionary school discipline policies and increased rates of incarceration. School districts have a responsibility to ensure that disciplinary policies and practices do not disproportionately impact students of color,” Raoul said. “Academic success should not depend on a student’s race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity or disability. I am proud to work with ISBE to provide continued guidance that will help school districts craft equitable policies that give all students the opportunity to excel.”

“We have seen that the trauma and instability students have faced during the pandemic can affect students’ behavior, especially as they continue to re-acclimate to in-person learning,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said. “As educators, we need to engage with our students with more empathy and understanding than ever before. Punitive and exclusionary discipline are not what students need to get back on track academically. We are proud to partner with the Attorney General’s Office to provide guidance on school discipline to support holistic, evidence-based practices that contribute to a safe and positive school culture for all students.”

Illinois law requires school boards and the governing bodies of charter schools to conduct annual reviews of discipline policies and their implementation. Raoul and ISBE are encouraging school boards to review disparities in discipline data and eliminate policies and practices associated with having a race-based disparate impact. The guidance addresses discipline policies, such as those that rely on suspension and expulsions or those based on hair and dress codes, which disproportionately impact students of color. In addition, behavioral concerns have increased in some schools as students have faced personal trauma throughout the pandemic. The guidance released by Raoul and ISBE highlights resources focused on evidence-based practices to help schools address behavioral challenges.

During the 2019-2020 school year, 45% of students expelled from Illinois public schools were Black, despite comprising less than 17% of the state’s student population. Nationally, during the 2017-2018 school year, students with disabilities received 20.5% of in-school suspensions and 24.5% of out-of-school suspensions, despite representing 13.2% of the total student enrollment. Similarly, emerging data also show that LGBTQ+ students face harsher discipline outcomes than heterosexual and cisgender students. These disparities cause real harms for vulnerable students, since exclusionary discipline is correlated with decreased academic achievement, increased likelihood of students dropping out of school and increased involvement with the juvenile justice system.

The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau enforces state and federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination. Attorney General Raoul urges students or parents who experience or witness discriminatory school discipline practices or policies to contact his office’s Civil Rights Bureau by emailing or by calling his Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692, or to contact the ISBE Student Care Department by emailing

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