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A federal commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recommends rescinding Obama-era guidance intended to reduce racial discrimination in school discipline. And, DeVos says, it urges schools to “seriously consider partnering with local law enforcement in the training and arming of school personnel.”
President Trump created the Federal Commission on School Safety following the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. While student survivors rallied for gun control, DeVos said early on that would not be a focus of the commission’s work.
The final report highlights a single concrete gun control recommendation, pertaining to the expansion of “extreme risk protection orders,” which allow household members or police to seek the removal of firearms from a mentally disturbed person.
The recommendations on discipline form part of a broader effort by the Trump administration and DeVos to back away from Obama-era policies aimed at reducing racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions. The commission says those polices made schools reluctant to address unruly students or violent incidents.
“Students are afraid because violent students were going unpunished,” said a senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition that he not be identified. DeVos instead called for a “holistic view” of school safety.
The federal policies addressed in the report stem from 2014, when the Education Department under President Barack Obama issued detailed guidance on “how to identify, avoid, and remedy” what it called “discriminatory discipline.” The guidance promoted alternatives to suspension and expulsion and opened investigations into school districts that had severely racially skewed numbers.
The guidance had its roots two decades earlier. After the passage of the Gun-Free Schools Act in 1994, more schools adopted “zero tolerance” discipline policies and added more police on campuses, particularly at low-income schools with many black and Hispanic students.
A growing body of research showed that being suspended, expelled or arrested at school is associated with higher dropout rates and lifelong negative consequences. “Just one suspension can make a difference,” says Kristen Harper, director for policy at Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization. Statistics showed that these negative consequences fell far more often on students of color, disproportionate to their actual behavior. Black girls, for example, were suspended at six times the rate of white girls.
In the wake of the 2014 guidance, more than 50 of America’s largest school districts instituted discipline reform. More than half the states revised their laws to try and reduce suspensions and expulsions.
And, a new analysis for NPR of federal data by Child Trends shows that suspensions indeed declined, particularly for Hispanic students. But the progress has been incremental, and black high school students are still twice as likely as whites to be suspended nationwide. So are students in special education.
Discrimination, the in thing with trumptards.
". . . those who claim to know the Mind of God, who will tell you what God thinks and how He will judge and condemn others—those people are the greatest of all blasphemers." Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast
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