Dear Secretary DeVos,
As a fellow person of faith and advocate for educational equity, we share a belief that all God’s children deserve a high-quality education regardless of the zip code they live in, money their parents make, or color of their skin. That’s why I’m so disappointed with your comments on 60 Minutes regarding the racial justice implications of school discipline.
Research from your own Department of Education shows African-American students are three times more likely than their white peers to be expelled or suspended, and that these disparities are not explained by more frequent or serious misbehavior by students of color.
When given the opportunity to endorse the idea that these disparities represent “institutional racism” you declined, saying rather that "all of this comes down to individual kids.”
Respectfully, punishing African-American and white students differently for the same behavior, in a way that is measurable across our entire system, is the very definition of institutional racism. If we don't agree with this as a first-premise, or that we have a responsibility as people of faith to address it, finding the right solution will prove difficult.
Our scripture says we’re all created in the image of God and are, therefore, of equal and immeasurable worth in the eyes of our Creator. So when African-American kids in our schools are treated differently than white kids we should all be able to agree this is wrong.
I’m asking you to reconsider your position from a biblical perspective and commit to working together to ensure all students are treated equally.