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Federal school discipline guidelines reflect Colorado’s ‘baby steps’

The Obama administration released new federal guidelines Wednesday to address discrimination in K-12 school discipline policies, an issue on which Colorado already has taken some halting first steps.

Casting the initiative not just as a policy discussion but as a legal issue rooted in civil rights law, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education cited national data showing a correlation between race and higher rates of discipline.

It outlined several steps aimed at keeping kids in school and ending what some critics have dubbed the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

The federal guidelines suggest ways to create safe and positive school climates with social and emotional supports. Those include providing cultural awareness training to school employees, clearly defining school resource officers interaction with students and collecting data on the actions of law enforcement personnel to ensure they are not biased.

Colorado has been working on the issue of school discipline for the past few years, as complaints about “zero tolerance” policies and racial concerns that echo national trends prompted policy and even legislative change.

Nearly a year ago,

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