President Obama has signed an executive order hiring more race-sensitive federal administrators to hold meetings and mandate racial discipline quotas in an effort to improve black students’ generally abysmal education outcomes.
The order charges his new council in part with “promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools.”
A higher percentage of black students than white students receive school discipline such as suspensions or expulsion, the president noted.
A recent Civil Rights Project (CRP) study of 85 percent of the country’s school districts found 17.3 percent of black students were suspended in 2009-2010, whereas 4.7 percent of whites and 7.3 percent of Latinos were. Only 2.1 percent of Asians were suspended that year. The black graduation rate is 64 percent. For whites, it’s 82 percent, and for Asians, it’s 92 percent.
Conclusions Based on ‘Junk Science’
CRP recommends the federal government “step up federal civil rights enforcement to address the large disparities.”
But the disproportionate school discipline numbers don’t indicate racism as a central cause, said Walter Olson, a Cato Institute senior fellow.
“Kids who have had their lives disrupted in various ways are more likely to engage in misconduct,” Olson said. “Also, if you attend a school that already has a discipline problem, you are more likely to become a discipline problem.”
The president and CRP’s solutions rest on “junk science,” said Heather MacDonald, a Manhattan Institute fellow. School discipline policies ought to give school officials more authority instead of tying their hands and increasing expenses, she said.
“The idea that discipline is somehow happening capriciously is ridiculous,” she said.
Encouraging Unruly Behavior
The report claims data shows black students do not misbehave more than other students. While some personnel may unfairly discipline students of a particular race, disability, or gender, statistics cannot prove that, Olson said.
In the past, school districts pressured to reduce racial discipline disparities have attempted to “fix the numbers” by giving minority students a pass following behavior that would land other students in hot water, and by punishing students of “under-disciplined” races more harshly, he said. This combined with the administration’s anti-bullying regulations will make schools more unruly, Olson said.
“It’s a scary incentive to be arbitrarily harsher,” Olson said, “and to diverge from actually doing justice in the individual case. It should alarm parents.”
Image by UK Parliament.