(NBC NEWS) The Obama administration Wednesday issued new guidelines on classroom discipline, seeking to end the apparent disparities in how students of different races are punished for violating school rules.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the recommendations were meant to protect the civil rights of students, and disrupt the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.” Civil rights advocates have long said that overly zealous school discipline policies target black and Hispanic students, pulling them out of schools and into the court system.

“Each year, significant numbers of students miss class due to suspensions and expulsions – even for minor infractions of school rules – and students of color and with disabilities are disproportionately impacted,” the Justice Department said in a news release. “The guidance package provides resources for creating safe and positive school climates, which are essential for boosting student academic success and closing achievement gaps.”

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