NIEA and NCAI Joint Statement on Federal Decision to Rescind School Discipline Guidance

For Immediate Release                               

Contact: Adrianne Elliott:

Washington, DC The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) President Robin Butterfield and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Jefferson Keel issue the following statement regarding a federal decision to rescind guidance that protects Native students against harmful school discipline policies: “The Federal Commission on School Safety (Commission), chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently recommended that the Department of Education (Department) rescind the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline (discipline guidance). NIEA and NCAI have long supported the discipline guidance, which protects Native students and historically underrepresented students from discriminatory disciplinary policies in the classroom. American Indian and Alaska Native students are two times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. Since introduced, this guidance has been a critical resource for tribes, states, and schools in the fight to address disciplinary policies that disproportionately impact Native students, including Native students with disabilities.

By rescinding the discipline guidance, the Department will not change any law.  However, this action will send a direct message to Native students and communities that the federal government is willing to ignore current disparities in school discipline for all students, including those students for whom the Administration has a direct responsibility to educate. The withdrawal of guidance that protects safe learning environments for Native children represents a rupture in the federal trust responsibility and promotes the overuse of discriminatory disciplinary action that interferes with the future academic success of Native students.  

NIEA and NCAI are extremely disappointed the Department has decided not to uphold their federal trust responsibility to Native students by pursuing the Commission’s recommendation. Native students deserve the opportunity to attend school in positive, healthy environments where they can learn and thrive.

About The National Indian Education Association (NIEA):NIEA is the Nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization advancing comprehensive culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles- to convene educators to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. For more information visit

About the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI):
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit