January 11, 2014

Schooling vs. chaos

The Obama administration is seeking racial quotas in the nation's public schools. No, not quotas for some perceived racial balance just for a school's population, but for the number of students disciplined. In other words, if the discipline figures for a school don't more or less equal that of the school's [racial] population ... then it's racist.

We've written about the danger of this previously; now the feds are making their move.

It’s part of a larger effort — backed by teachers unions, civil rights advocacy groups and other organizations — to combat the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which minority students are disproportionately kicked out of school and subsequently end up in the criminal justice system.

But within its guidance, most of which is not controversial and merely reinforces existing nondiscrimination laws, the administration also declares that schools’ disciplinary policies cannot have a “disparate impact” on one particular group.

In plain terms, it means district rules, guidelines and enforcement cannot result in the punishment of more black students than white students for the same offense, for example.

With that in mind, school leaders surely will keep a close eye on whether the same number of children from given racial groups are disciplined in equal number and equal measure for the same behavior.

“You have to make certain that your school discipline cases match those percentages. If you don’t, you’ll have the feds on your doorstep,” said Joshua Dunn, a political science professor at the University of Colorado and director of the university’s Center for Legal Studies. “If they actually do enforce these guidelines, there will be unintended consequences. This creates some rather destructive incentives. I don’t think there’s any way around that.”

The feds are pushing methods "for creating safe and positive school climates, which are essential for boosting student academic success and closing achievement gaps.” In other words, things the schools should be doing that parents used to. Yet another thing on teachers' and administrators' plates all the while politicians clamor for accountability on the academic front. At any rate, you now can't just kick a kid out of the classroom for being a constant disruption; you have to find out why the kid is doing what he's doing, and then take actions to help "remedy" it. You know, while your 30+ other kids are still sitting in class awaiting instruction. Take a look at the doublespeak and wishful thinking on the part of the feds:

"Maintaining safe and supportive school climates is absolutely critical, and we are concerned about the rising rates and disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools,” said Secretary Duncan. “By teaming up with stakeholders on this issue and through the work of our offices throughout the department, we hope to promote strategies that will engage students in learning and keep them safe.”

Requiring racial quotas in discipline will make schools and classrooms anything but safe and supportive. Why in the world does the government care more about the chronic problem students than the vast majority of students who wish to ... learn?

Hans Bader, a former attorney with the [federal] Education Dept., notes that ultimately, this sort of federal "oversight" could get it into trouble:

“The only practical way for a school system to comply with the Education Department’s demands is to adopt a de facto racial quota in discipline. But this itself puts the school system in legal jeopardy, since at least one federal appeals court has said that schools cannot use racial targets or quotas for school discipline, since that violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.”

Bader added that in the case of People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, the court ruled that “a school cannot use race in student discipline to offset racial disparities not rooted in school officials’ racism (so-called “disparate impact”).”

Bader adds that, regarding People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education,

... it didn’t just strike down overt use of race to achieve a racial target or racial balancing. It voided even the requirement of racial balance, thus disposing of any potential argument by the Education Department that it’s OK to require racial targets or balancing, as long as the school is merely told to achieve the target, but not (explicitly) told to use race to achieve it.

So, maybe a school district that'd be willing to stand up to Eric Holder and Arne Duncan (good luck, though -- money, after all) can emphasize this case, among others. Others such as United States v. Armstrong (an 8-1 decision) which held that "crime rates are not the same for different races, and that racial disparities in crime rates and conviction rates are not proof of racial discrimination." Bader continues that not disciplining black students for misbehavior or some other violation just because some other black students were previously disciplined (more than white students) is "as crazy as ordering police to stop arresting black criminals just because they previously arrested more blacks than whites."

The feds state also that even if a school discipline policy "is neutral on its face," and "is administered in an evenhanded manner," if it has that disparate impact on students of a particular race, it's bad. Ironically however, policies like much maligned "zero tolerance" measures (those applied to whomever no matter what whenever the policy is violated) came about partly because school officials were fearful of "lawsuits charging that principals disciplined unequally based on race or other factors." Setting straight, specific guidelines enabled administrators to say "Look, you did this. This is the consequence. It's written right here." Schools set up their own codes of conduct which did the same thing. But then ... the racial numbers still weren't "balanced" after the implementation of these measures! B-b-b-b-but ...! (Also take a look at Kilroy's coverage of Delaware's Christina School District's intervention by the feds regarding disparate disciplinary measures. One of the points of contention was that, yes, the district was using terminology that was too subjective, thus making the point about the origin of zero tolerance policies. What a Catch-22. A school board member even noted that the district's definition of "inappropriate behavior" needed to be "thoroughly defined.")

Let's cut to the chase: As was alluded to above, if law enforcement was required to arrest people in proportion to their numbers in the general population, the result would be chaos. Crime would be beyond rampant and society would crumble. (UPDATE: Has this already begun?) Why should we expect schools, then, to follow such a ridiculous idea? Would you want your child to attend a school where the most chronically disruptive students weren't only not removed from your kid's class, but weren't even disciplined period?? What do you think that class would be like? What do you think that school would be like? It seems that when consultants, lawyers, advocates, and school officials ask why there may be disparate disciplinary rates among races in schools, the reasons bandied about rarely, if ever, include the obvious: that maybe, just maybe, students in certain [racial/ethnic] groups actually misbehave more often than others. And then consider this: should we do away with penalties things such as lateness to school and/or class? If there is a preponderance of students of a particular race coming late to class, how would that be evidence of teacher/administrator/institutional racism? Would clocks now be considered prejudiced? (Well, yes, actually. Because staff would be treated to something akin to this, where they'd be "educated" on how certain groups are different, and that "linear time is an inherently Caucasian-Western concept." And, hence is discriminatory. Or something.)

Ultimately, this is all the product of the current Democratic-led Education Department which, as Bader says, "outsource[s] civil-rights policy to left-wing radicals" and leads to guidelines and interpretations "which were probably drafted by left-wing civil-rights bureaucrats with little understanding of how classrooms operate in the real world."

Posted by Felix at January 11, 2014 08:57 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

This is a completely unsurprising move from an administration that changed the rules in public and higher ed to weaken the standard of proof necessary to prove sexual harassment to the point that now to be accused is better than 90% "proof" of guilt.

Posted by: Steve Newton at January 11, 2014 09:14 PM

I would love for the feds to investigate districts such as Detroit, Philly, Wilmington etc. Really crunch that data...data that will obviously manifest that a disproportionately large number of black students are being suspended and expelled. I would love to hear them explain how this has anything to do with racism. Look at the Philly school district's statistics regarding violent crimes and violent sex crimes that occur in their schools. The numbers are beyond comprehension. The vast majority of these crimes are perpetrated by young black men. I would love for Mr. Duncan to explain to me the racist drivers behind this problem and how we could handle these issues in a less racist way. Cause, ya know, just suspending/expelling these kids is racist.

I think we should have the perpetrators of these sexual assaults and rapes meet with their victims and tell them they are sorry and that it wont happen again. That oughta help the victims feel better and it will certainly cut down on those racist statistics.

Posted by: A.P. Anderson at January 12, 2014 04:14 PM

Hi,
Great piece.

Any significant reform to public education is impossible politically, because it has essentially become a Ponzi scheme to fund the Democrat Party as well as to attempt to indoctrinate children.That is especially true in Blue run states.

The options left in places like my own home state are private schools or home schooling.

As for keeping disruptive students in school at all costs - that 's pretty simple too. It's all about the head count and the federal $$ involved as much as political correctness.

Posted by: Rob Miller at January 15, 2014 01:16 AM

Thank you, Mr. Miller!

Posted by: Felix at January 15, 2014 07:30 AM

Is it racial discrimination that stops minority students from studying and completing high school?
Is it racial discrimination that's responsible for the 73 percent illegitimacy rate among blacks?

Posted by: sh68137 at January 15, 2014 01:32 PM

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