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College Applications Shouldn't Ask About School Discipline Records, Group Says

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A standardized application used by 600 colleges around the country should "immediately terminate use of questions concerning college applicants' educational disciplinary histories, criminal records, and juvenile justice backgrounds," the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said Thursday.

Such questions "may have a discriminatory effect on black and other minority applicants because of the racially disparate treatment that permeates the criminal justice system and the use of exclusionary discipline tactics in schools," the group said in a statement.

"No student should be denied a fair chance to compete for a seat in the classroom based on a high school suspension or contact with the criminal justice system," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in that statement. "The Common Application should take immediate action to strike these discriminatory inquiries from its standardized forms, to help schools across our nation provide a fair chance to all people seeking access to educational opportunity."

As Education Week reported last year, a study by the Center for Community Alternatives, a New York-based organization that advocates on behalf of students who've had prior court involvement, found that roughly 3 out of 4 colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information and that 89 percent of those institutions use the information to make admission decisions.

Some higher education officials are resistant to removing such questions from applications.

 "When we're doing a holistic review, we're really shaping a community," Todd Rinehart, the chairman of the admissions practices committee of the National Association for College Admission Counseling told Education Week. "We should have every bit of information that's possible."

What do you think? Should colleges ask about students' disciplinary and criminal records?


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