School Climate and Discipline: Know the Law

Civil Rights Enforcement

A complaint of discrimination can be filed by anyone who believes that a school that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, disability or age. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination, and may complain on behalf of another person or group.

File a complaint with:

State Laws

  • Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations
    You can access a description  [PDF, 674KB] of the compendium, or you can access the tool itself online.

Federal Laws: Race and Ethnicity

  • The Hidden Cost of Suspension: How can kids learn if they're not in school?
    Explore three interactive maps illustrating out-of-school suspensions, by district. Zoom in and find your community!

  • Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline
    How schools can administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin.
     English [PDF, 587KB] | Enespañol Enespañol [PDF, 644KB] 

  • 2014 Discipline FAQs Translated into Vietnamese, Khmer, and Lao
    Three new versions of ED's Discipline Frequently Asked Questions—translated into Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese—provide an overview of:

    • a Dear Colleague Letter that explains how public elementary and secondary schools can meet their legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin;

    • Guiding Principles that describe three key principles to guide efforts to improve school climate and school discipline; and 

    • Various tools, including a Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources and an online Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations.

    Language Versions:


    School Discipline Guidance Package FAQs
    [PDF, 394KB]

    language assistance Espanol:

    Paquete de Orientación Sobre la Disciplina Escolar, Preguntas y Respuestas
    [PDF, 394KB]

    language assistance Khmer:

    សំណួរដែលគេសួរជារឿយៗ (FAQs) សម្រាប់កញ្ចប់ឯកសារនៃសេចក្ដីណែនាំអំពីវិន័យសាលា
    [PDF, 486KB]

    language assistance Lao:

    [PDF, 614KB]

    language assistance Vietnamese:

    Những câu hỏi thường gặp về Tài Liệu Hướng dẫn Kỷ luật Nhà trường
    [PDF, 355KB]

  • OSEP Memorandum 07-09 to State Directors of Special Education, April 2007
    Clarifies the requirements governing overidentification and disproportionality under section 612(a)(24) of IDEA and the requirements governing significant disproportionality under section 618(d) of IDEA.
     [MS Word, 34KB | PDF, 104KB]

Federal Laws: Disability

Gun-Free Schools Act

  1. have in effect a state law requiring LEAs to expel from school for a period of not less than one year a student who is determined to have brought a firearm to school, or to have possessed a firearm at school;

  2. have in effect a state law allowing an LEA's chief administering officer to modify the expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis, if such modificationis in writing; and

  3. report to the Secretary on an annual basis concerning information submitted by LEAs to the SEA.

Last Modified: 07/11/2016