Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Urged to Scrap Obama-Era ‘Black Lives Matter’ School Discipline Policy
Civil rights and education experts say signs are pointing to the Trump administration education department’s finally getting around to rethinking the Obama-era “guidance” on school discipline that many say has hurt minority students most and made schools more dangerous.
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 has scrapped Obama’s transgender bathroom and campus sexual assault policies, and – according to civil rights experts – 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.
Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden, explained at National Review in November how 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.
According to the Obama administration’s 2014 “Dear Colleague” guidance, any school district whose disciplinary measures show “disparate impact” – meaning a disproportionately greater number of minority students are affected – is open to investigation by the Departments of Justice and Education, regardless of whether the behavior leading to the discipline is unacceptable.
The Obama administration justified its policy with concerns about the “school to prison pipeline” for minority students:
The increasing use of disciplinary sanctions such as in-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, or referrals to law enforcement authorities creates the potential for significant, negative educational and long-term outcomes, and can contribute to what has been termed the “school to prison pipeline.”
In place of traditional disciplinary measures, the Obama administration recommended such alternate techniques as “conflict resolution, restorative practices, counseling, and structured systems of positive intervention.”
However, critics of the Obama policy say it essentially placed “racial quotas” on school discipline and is teaching minority students they can avoid consequences for disruptive and violent behavior simply because of their race or ethnic background.
After much speculation about whether education secretary Betsy DeVos would actually take on the Obama-era school discipline policy, she hired former senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute Hans Bader – a noted critic of the use of “disparate impact” statistics to muscle school districts.
“To try to reduce unintended racial disparities, schools, encouraged by the Office for Civil Rights, are replacing suspension for violent offenders with talking circles and ‘restorative justice’ (even as they continue to suspend kids for things like toy guns),” Bader told Breitbart News in March 2015. “As a result, school violence is increasing, and students are escaping discipline for things like threatening teachers and setting classmates’ hair on fire.”