The Obama administration, concerned that “zero tolerance” policies are sending too many students to court instead of the principal’s office, on Wednesday urged schools to back off — particularly in the case of minority students and other federally protected groups.

“Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who joined Attorney General Eric Holder in speaking about the new guidance. Holder said “students of color and those with disabilities” often receive “different and more severe punishment than their peers.”

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