Project 21 Members Give Federal Intervention in Local School Discipline an F

A letter to schools sent out earlier this week by the Obama Administration is telling administrators to literally spare the rod and spoil the child when it comes to matters of discipline.

Because of perceived discriminatory effects of “zero tolerance” and other tough policies against bad behavior, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan now want school officials to think twice about how disruptive students are punished — if they are punished at all as a result of this edict.

The letter to schools reads:

In our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students… In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.

Suggestions from Washington include reining in the power of hired security officers and having administrators set the penalties exclusively rather than giving leeway to security or local law enforcement officers.

There is no binding authority for the federal government to enforce the suggested guidelines, but there is the power for the feds to single out and sue a school district as a means of setting an example and instilling fear in other schools.

Members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are critical of this federal intervention into what would seem to be largely local matters.

P21CouncilNeddFor instance, Project 21 member Bishop Council Nedd II, a former teacher in Washington, D.C., said:

Having spent two years teaching at a public charter high school in Washington, D.C. for what most would agree were some of the most troubled and at-risk youth I feel compelled to chime in on the Obama Administration’s thoughts on classroom discipline.

I knew where I was teaching.  I made a specific decision to teach at the school where I taught.  I knew the group that I was teaching and what the difficulties were.  A disproportionate number of students I taught were essentially raising themselves in the best way they knew how, and under far less than ideal circumstances.

By the standards with which I was raised, these children were just this shy of feral.   I specifically took on this task, with the hope of making a difference.   However, what is a teacher in a quiet suburban school to do when faced with a child who — by comparison to the rest of the class — seems a bit like a bull in a china shop?  Unfortunately, the decision is easy, when certain things transpire.  Quite simply, one removes the child from class, suspends them or expels them.

Today, teachers are placed in a position where there have to keep the entire class moving at pace.  It’s a no-brainer to have a chronically-disruptive student removed.

The U.S. Supreme Court rightly decided a long time ago that the schools act in loco parentis in the place of the parents.  Part of that obligation is to uphold local community standards and mores.  This gives the school the obligation to decide what is acceptable in the local school community.  Just as different families may have different standards of what is acceptable, so can different schools.

P21JoeHIcksAdditionally, Project 21 member Joe R. Hicks, a former executive director of executive director of both the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said:

Representing President Obama’s leftist views on race and racial victimization, Eric Holder’s Justice Department has again offered bad advice to the nation’s public school systems.

Claiming school disciplinary policies discriminate against misbehaving black students, Holder has asked school administrators and teachers to avoid discipline nearly altogether to avoid the bizarre notion of a “school-to-prison pipeline.”  But what are teachers supposed to do with students who stand up in a classroom and yell “f—- you” at their algebra teacher?

Yes, black students are “disproportionately” disciplined.  But what if, for a host of cultural, neighborhood and economic dynamics, black kids simply misbehave in school more often than their white or Asian counterparts?

If racism isn’t really any part of decisions about who gets disciplined, why must hard-working teachers ignore, tolerate or excuse bad behavior?

P21HoraceCooperProject 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper, in a panel discussion on the topic that aired on the TVOne network program “NewOne Now with Roland Martin” on 1/9/14, suggested that school choice — a policy largely opposed by the Obama Administration — could contain a solution to schools that ay too quickly rely on draconian disciplinary enforcement matters.

Horace said:

If a parent can pick to go to another school — the school that wants to keep you [as opposed to suspend or expel a perceived problem student] — [other schools] may be more responsive and change their policies to keep you.  If they don’t, they need to go out of business…

The public school system is a monopoly, and monopolies do not respond well to the interests of parents or students… They are the state.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.