Obama’s School ‘Punishment Equality’ Folly


800px-Japanese_high_school_classroomGeorge Leef, director of research for the North Carolina-based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, authored a Forbes op-ed article titled “Obama Administration Takes Groupthink To Absurd Lengths.” The subtitle is “School Discipline Rates Must Be ‘Proportionate.’” (http://tinyurl.com/mxnlg9h). Let’s examine some of the absurdity of the Obama administration’s take on student discipline.

Last January, the departments of Justice and Education published a “guidance” letter describing how schools can meet their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. Its underlying threat is that if federal bureaucrats learn of racial disproportionality in the punishments meted out for misbehavior, they will descend upon a school’s administrators. If schools cannot justify differentials in rates of punishment by race or ethnic group, they will face the loss of federal funds and be forced to undertake costly diversity training.

The nation’s educators can avoid sanctions by adopting a racial quota system for student discipline. So as Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, predicts, “school officials will either start disciplining students who shouldn’t be, or, more likely, will not discipline some students who ought to be.” I can imagine school administrators reasoning this way: “Blacks are 20 percent of our student body, and 20 percent of suspensions this year have been of black students. In order to discipline another black student while maintaining our suspension quota, we will have to suspend some white students, whether they’re guilty or not.” Some administrators might see some injustice in that approach and simply ignore the misbehavior of black students.

Leef cites Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, who wrote in City Journal (http://tinyurl.com/9k648fj) that “the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students.

The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe.” She quoted Aaron Benner, a black teacher in a St. Paul, Minn., school who abhors the idea that school officials should go easy on black students who act up because (as a “facilitator” said) that’s what black culture is. “They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.” Benner is right. I can’t think of a more racist argument than one that holds that disruptive, rude behavior and foul language are a part of black culture.

If Barack Obama’s Department of Justice thinks that disproportionality in school punishments is probative of racial discrimination, what about our criminal justice system, in which a disproportionate number of blacks are imprisoned, on parole or probation, and executed? According to the NAACP’s criminal justice fact sheet, blacks now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million people who are incarcerated. Blacks are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. The NAACP goes on to report that if blacks and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rate as whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50 percent (http://tinyurl.com/7g2b32h).

So what to do? For example, blacks are 13 percent of the population but over 50 percent of homicide victims and about 46 percent of convicted murderers. Seeing as the Obama administration is concerned about punishment disproportionality, should black convicts be released so that only 13 percent of incarcerated murderers are black? Or should the Department of Justice order the conviction of whites, whether they’re guilty or not, so that the number of people convicted of murder by race is equal to their number in the general population? You say, “Williams, that not only is a stupid suggestion but violates all concepts of justice!” You’re absolutely right, but isn’t it just as stupid and unjust for the Obama administration to seek punishment equality in schools?

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

Subscribe to Frontpage’s TV show, The Glazov Gang, and LIKE it on Facebook.

  • CaoMoo

    This has been going on for a long time in schools. I’ve had kids that should have been expelled for the stuff they pulled, yet I couldn’t even get detention for them let alone a one day suspension, because they were a minority and the principle didn’t want to be racist by disciplining them. Or in a few cases the principle was a black racist and didn’t like whitey. We just don’t understand their children after all. My question is what is their to understand about impaling another students hand straight through with a sharpened pencil?

    • Race_Dissident

      And because we don’t understand them, I think it only fair that we should refuse to teach them. Leave that thankless and impossible task to blacks who do understand them.

  • Globe Warmer

    As a former per diem substitute teacher, I witnessed this first hand. While I disciplining 2 disruptive middle school students, (one black and one hispanic), who were demonstrating rude behavior and foul language in the class. I was was shortly thereafter presumed the guilty party by the black female principal when the 2 students in question wrote statements against me.

    • kikorikid

      Let me guess? Are you a White-Male?
      Variations of this have happened thousands
      of times in America in the past, say,twenty years.
      Many have lost jobs and livleyhood because
      adult Educators were following a ideological
      ploy of “student empowerment” to launch a “Diversity”
      attack against a White-Male. In “education” White-Males
      are considered targets of opportunity. and EEOC doesn’t care.
      It is racial oppression.

      • Globe Warmer

        Yes, white, and now not working there.

  • Race_Dissident

    Unfortunately, “disruptive, rude behavior and foul language,” along with criminality, are part of black culture. But, hey, all cultures are equal, right?

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Did ACORN send you to insert racist comments into a reasonable discussion?

      • truebearing

        Are facts racist? You tell me where in America there is a predominantly black city, or section of a city, where disruptive, rude behavior, criminality, and foul language aren’t the norm. Teachers aren’t safe in many, if not all, inner city schools. Gang activity, drug dealing, and violence are a way of life.

        Let’s not let Eric Holder down and be cowards about racial issues in America.

  • johnlittle

    Dr. Williams: Again, You have written an informative and provocative article about an important educational issue. The posit that minority group discipline must decline or non-minority group discipline must increase is, of course, based on good Archimedian logic. From where I sit: no student should keep another student from learning, period.

    Now, I suggest that the federal government applies the type of thinking they have about discipline to how they think about educational achievement, and your posit about discipline proposals holds true for this, as well. No way can an achievement gap be closed without high achievers progressing slower than low achievers. Again, no student should keep another student from learning.

    Cordially, John Little, Sr.

  • George of the Jungle

    In his final suggestion, Williams reasonably expects a response that it “violates all concepts of justice.” The trouble is, the left already knows that it would violate such concepts, but doesn’t give a damn. They are more than willing to sacrifice the rest of us on their bloody altar of absolute equality. They will willfully ignore the inevitable resultant destruction, as long as their sanctimonious moral fantasyland is forced onto society.

    We need to be clear about this, once and for all: the left is either at your throat or at your feet… there is no possibility of compromise with their insanity.

    • Lea

      Surely there is something amiss here. A sort of “progressive liberal” dementia? You will understand Obama when you accept that he is anti-colonialist, anti-west. This is the reason also for his Muslim Brotherhood associations, who are also part of his administration. His plan is to put America, that is white Americans, in its place for all the “imperialist” actions it has taken. He is degrading America fast.