Some education and civil rights experts say the Trump administration’s education department may be on the verge of restructuring Obama-era “guidance” on school discipline, which many believe has hurt minority students and made schools more dangerous.
The Obama administration’s 2014 “Dear Colleague” guidance said that any school district whose disciplinary measures show “disparate impact” related to minority students would be opening itself up to investigation by the Departments of Justice and Education. There was no exception for relevant use of discipline, as social-justice activists felt that teachers were mis-applying discipline, and potentially targeting minority students with unfair expectations, because of racial bias.
“Former President Barack Obama became known for inserting civil rights issues into a great many of his policies, including those involving campus sexual assault procedures, public school bathrooms and locker rooms, and how schools implement disciplinary procedures.
“The Trump administration … may now be poised to tackle the former president’s school discipline ‘guidance’ that threatens school districts with federal investigation if their discipline measures resulted in statistics that showed a greater proportion of minority students are disciplined than white students.”
According to Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden, the Obama-era school discipline policy “extended Black Lives Matter’s ideology down into America’s classrooms.”
“Social-justice activists assumed that just as racial disparities in the criminal-justice system must be evidence that cops are (at least implicitly) racist, so too racial disparities in school suspensions must be evidence that teachers are (at least implicitly) racist. Therefore, teachers — like cops — have to be restrained,” Eden wrote in an article for the National Review.
The Obama administration’s “guidance” suggested concerns about the “school to prison pipeline” for minority students, as disciplinary actions such as suspensions and expulsions have a negative impact on “educational and long-term outcomes,” which could contribute to incarceration later in life.
The recommendation included alternative techniques, such as “conflict resolution, restorative practices, counseling, and structured systems of positive intervention.”
Critics of Obama’s policy said it put “racial quotas” on school discipline, allowing minority students to avoid consequences for bad behavior.
Researchers Natalie Goodnow and Will Flanders, of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), claim to have found that: “Simply refusing to suspend students who have earned a suspension doesn’t solve the underlying problem and it needlessly polarizes the country.”
The researchers assert: “School disciplinary policy should be based on sound science and research, not spurious ideological doctrines about race.”
Education secretary Betsy DeVos has now hired former senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute Hans Bader, who they describe as “a noted critic of the use of ‘disparate impact’ statistics to muscle school districts.”
Bader told Breitbart News in March 2015 that Obama’s policies have led to an increase in school violence, as “students are escaping discipline for things like threatening teachers and setting classmates’ hair on fire.”
Some experts see DeVos’s selection of Bader as a sign that the Obama-era guidance may be changing.