Students with disabilities often face more disciplinary action at school than other kids and federal officials say they’re looking for ideas about how to put an end to the disparity.

The U.S. Department of Education is seeking public comment on discipline in schools serving those in pre-K through high school.

“All students deserve access to safe, supportive schools and classrooms. Discrimination and use of exclusionary discipline can negatively impact students’ abilities to learn, grow and thrive,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We’re seeking information so that the department can help schools and educators confront disparities and create inclusive school environments that set all students up for success.”

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The most recent federal data — from the 2017-2018 school year — indicates that students with disabilities accounted for a quarter of those who were suspended and 15% of expulsions even though they represent just 13% of all students.

Similarly, 38% of students who were suspended were Black though they account for only 15% of enrollment across the country.

“Our nation’s civil rights laws require fair and nondiscriminatory school discipline practices … yet we have data that show concerning disparities based on race, sex and disability in the administration of discipline,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education. “We want to hear from educators, students, parents and other stakeholders about how the department can support schools in addressing disparities and eliminating discrimination in school discipline and fostering positive and inclusive school climates.”

In addition to feedback on discipline in traditional schooling, the Education Department said that it would like comments about issues that have arisen amid school closures, virtual learning, hybrid learning and school reopenings during the pandemic.

Comments will help officials determine “what policy guidance, technical assistance or other resources may help schools improve school climate and safety,” the agency said.

The request for information is part of the Department of Education’s efforts to carry out an executive order issued by President Joe Biden earlier this year directing federal agencies to ensure that their policies advance equity.

The Education Department will be accepting public comment on the issue through July 23.

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