The Obama administration wants to water down school discipline policies to put an end to what some call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Well-meaning but overly aggressive zero-tolerance policies drive minority students from public classrooms and into the criminal justice system, civil rights advocates say.
The White House’s solution? Relax disciplinary measures to end racial disparities in how students are punished, The Associated Press reported.
Attorney General Eric Holder told the AP that while well-intentioned, zero-tolerance policies are often too quick to use the criminal justice system as a disciplinary tool.
“Ordinary troublemaking can sometimes provoke responses that are overly severe, including out of school suspensions, expulsions and even referral to law enforcement and then you end up with kids that end up in police precincts instead of the principal’s office,” Holder said.
Zero-tolerance, which the AP said reached popularity in the 1990s, exact uniform and swift disciplinary measures for offenses that should be handled in the academic environment, like skipping school, smoking or bringing a weapon onto campus.
Critics say the criminalizing such minor infractions rob students of classroom time or saddle them with a criminal record.
According to a government study using 2011-12 data and cited by The Associated Press, black students without disabilities were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended.
The term “ordinary troublemaking” has yet to be adequately defined, but criminal behavior is pretty clear-cut, and there should be no gray area when it comes to enforcing the law.
But then again, this is the Obama administration, so the only way to explain the racial disparity among student disciplinary records is to use the old race card: It must be discrimination.
“The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the administration’s conceptual universe,” Heather Mac Donald, contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal wrote in a 2012 article titled, “Undisciplined.”
Wednesday’s recommendations encourage schools to ensure all employees are trained in how to manage their classrooms, resolve conflicts and de-escalate classroom disruptions.
The AP reported that other recommendations included:
—Ensure that school personnel understand that they, not security or police officers, are responsible for administering routine student discipline.
—Draw clear distinctions about the responsibilities of school security personnel.
—Provide opportunities for school security officers to develop relationships with students and parents.
Continue reading at AP
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