Certain students see themselves as “untouchable.” Oklahoma City Schools and other school districts forced to adopt the Department of Education’s “steps of action” can expect similar outcomes. As others have pointed out, all students, including minority students, are harmed when criminals and criminals-in-the-making are allowed to control our schools. One civics lesson students need to learn is that under our system of justice, the punishment fits the crime, not the race. That should be the policy of the next administration. The next attorney general should lift the diktats and restore justice in our schools.
By Mary Grabar | June 1, 2016
On April 20, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it had reached an agreement with the Oklahoma City Public Schools to “address disproportionate discipline of black students.” In chilling language, the press release stated, “Before the Department’s Office for Civil Rights had completed its probe, the district expressed an interest in resolving the case voluntarily.”
The school district was “voluntarily” resolving the case after feds charged that “black students were considerably overrepresented in all of the district’s disciplinary actions.” They found that in the 2014/2015 school year black students accounted for 42 percent of in-school suspensions even though they represented only 26 percent of the population. Patterns of discrimination were also alleged for 2011/2012.
An early signal of this backwards thinking came on February 25, 2012, when Eric Holder, then Attorney General, gave a speech advancing the “school-to-prison pipeline” theory that claims that higher rates of punishment, which are due to racism, lead to higher drop-out and imprisonment rates. In January 2014 he put school districts on notice with a memo that stated that it is a violation of federal law to punish certain races more than others. A particularly Orwellian section read, “Schools also violate Federal law when they evenhandedly implement facially neutral policies and practices that, although not adopted with the intent to discriminate, nonetheless have an unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race.” In other words, in defiance of logic, the “effect,” the statistical outcome, can determine whether policies were neutral or just “facially neutral.”
Such an argument would be a hard sell with obvious and serious crimes, such as assault. So the Department focuses on violations that are minor and open to interpretation. The memo asked school officials to give a second look to such offenses as “being tardy to class, being in possession of a cellular phone, being found insubordinate, acting out, or not wearing the proper school uniform.”
The Department also charged Oklahoma City Schools with lack of clarity on “parameters of certain disciplinary actions . . . such as ‘defiance of authority’ and ‘disrespect.’”
Such infractions can fall under the category of “willful defiance,” which a number of school districts in California are eliminating as a category for punishment. The Daily Caller reported in May 2015 that Oakland schools were joining a number of other California districts in lessening or eliminating punishment for such behavior as ignoring or swearing at teachers, sleeping, or texting.
As part of its “voluntary” compliance agreement, the Oklahoma City school district has agreed to take “twelve steps of action,” including hiring a “discipline supervisor” and expert advisors; training staff, students, and parents; and making other efforts to change school “climate.” “Resources” for “positive discipline” are offered at the Office of Civil Rights’ “Rethink Discipline” website. It, however, only provides links to videos and left-wing groups. One, Teachers Unite, promotes “restorative justice,” a practice that often involves a lot of talking and “apologies.”
The Link to Black Lives Matter
The basis for such harmful policies—the idea that black students are punished disproportionately because of their race—is not borne out by the evidence. A 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice showed that suspensions were given on the basis of students’ behavior.
It is radical groups, like the Black Lives Matter movement, that are providing the charges, according to A.P. Dillon, a North Carolina blogger, researcher, and writer. She exposes the agents promoting the “school-to-prison” pipeline theory, a term coined by radical sociology professor Nancy Heitzag in 2009.
Dillon has been writing about a case in Wake County. In January 2014, the North Carolina NAACP, the ACLU, and several “school to prison” groups filed suit against Wake County Schools and the Wake County Sheriffs alleging a “pattern of discrimination and unlawful criminalization.”
In an April 15, 2016, blog post on a public hearing on school discipline, Dillon provided additional information on the left-wing groups that provide the “statistics” behind the complaints. These include Youth Organizing Institute, NC HEAT, Education Justice Alliance, Dignity in Schools, and Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children. The students who make the complaints have been indoctrinated and radicalized by such student groups as NC Student Power Union, remnants of Occupy Chapel Hill, the Southern Vision Alliance, NC HEAT, and Youth Organizing Institute.
I wanted to know who brought charges in Oklahoma City and how many schools are being investigated, but received no reply to multiple telephone calls and emails to the Department of Education.
What will the outcomes be?
We can get a foretaste from Minneapolis schools, whose superintendant, Valeria Silva, led the way. Silva sees “defiance, disrespect, and disruption” as “subjective behaviors.” In 2011, the district adopted a “Strong Schools, Strong Communities” plan that replaced suspension for “continual willful disobedience” with “restorative justice.” For $2 million, “diversity” consultant Pacific Educational Group taught teachers that their “white privilege” distorted their judgment.
The result, as Katherine Kersten reports, is that certain students see themselves as “untouchable.” High school students, who come to school only for the free breakfasts, lunches, and WiFi, roam uncontrolled through hallways. They invade classrooms, riot, and body-slam teachers. In elementary schools, students spew obscenities, knock over chairs and trash cans, and attack each other, as teachers stand by helplessly.
Oklahoma City Schools and other school districts forced to adopt the Department’s “steps of action” can expect similar outcomes. As others have pointed out, all students, including minority students, are harmed when criminals and criminals-in-the-making are allowed to control our schools.
One civics lesson students need to learn is that under our system of justice, the punishment fits the crime, not the race.
That should be the policy of the next administration. The next attorney general should lift these diktats and restore justice in our schools.
Mary Grabar, Ph.D., taught college English for 20 years. She is now a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. She founded the Dissident Prof Education Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) education reform initiative that offers information and resources for students, parents and citizens. The motto,“Resisting the Re-Education of America,” arose in part from her perspective as a very young immigrant from the former Communist Yugoslavia (Slovenia specifically). She writes extensively and is also a published poet and fiction writer. Ms. Grabar is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.