Discipline by race

Racial quotas in school discipline could be coming to Maryland, writes Hans Bader in the Examiner.

“As a lawyer who used to bring civil-rights cases for a living, I am very disturbed” by the Maryland State Board of Education’s proposed school discipline policy, Bader writes.

This proposed rule violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by pressuring schools to discipline students based on their race, rather than their individual conduct and the content of their character.

. . . (The rule) would require school systems to discipline and suspend students in numbers roughly in proportion to their racial percentage of the student body, and require school systems that currently don’t do so to implement plans to eliminate any racially “disproportionate impact” over a three-year period. Thus, it is imposing quotas in all but name.

The Obama administration has supported the use of “disparate impact” to evaluate school discipline policies.

The Maryland board also wants schools to discipline special education students — including those diagnosed with behavioral disorders — at the ame rate as other students. However, there’s no plan for gender balance in school discipline.

Of course, reducing out-of-school suspensions makes a lot of sense, if it can be done without threatening the safety of other students.

About Joanne


  1. I REALLY don’t like this – in the schools I’ve been in, the offenses are not committed in equal proportions. Asian students, for example, commit very few infractions of the disciplinary code – should the administration jump all over them for minor offenses, just to keep it “equal”?

    Realistically, it’s a very small proportion of any group that causes 80-90% of the trouble. They make the stats look as though the administration is punishing the group unfairly.

    I was the homeroom teacher in an incident in a school that tried to implement just this criteria for discipline. One kid (scrawny 7th grader) had the {bleep} beaten out of him by a 6-foot, fully-muscled 7th grader – two different races. The little kid was suspended before his copious blood had been cleaned up off the floor. The big kid never did have ANY punishment – that particular ethnic group had been disciplined too many times.

    Need I mention that it was a tough month, as word quickly spread that violence against the “under-disciplined” ethnic group was treated as a freebie?

    • Sooner or later, and probably sooner, parents are going to start taking this out of the schools and putting it in the criminal justice system.  They’ll start filing class actions demanding equal protection.  They may even get an injunction against the OCR’s “disparate impact” enforcement efforts.

      If that fails, I can’t think of a better (worse) recipe for the development of vigilante justice.

    • That’s insane, and VERY scary. You do the crime, you do the time – it doesn’t matter what your race / religion / age / gender / etc. is, and it doesn’t matter what or who previously did the crime before you.

      This policy will lead to the complete destruction of what’s left of the K-12 school system. Our society really has become suicidal…

    • Students and teachers are going to be dying on a regular basis starting soon, and students who do the violent crimes will get away with it because it was a designated “freebie”… Count on it.

  2. I wonder if Romney will pick up on this issue and run with it?

    Affirmative action in any form’s an issue that’s seen its best days and as frantically as lefties try to shore it up support just continues to evaporate. It would be nice to see President Obama held to account for his exploitation of racial divisions for political gain.

  3. Idiotic. Like most of the rest of human activities, disciplinary offenses aren’t likely to be distributed equally across all subgroups. One of my kids was in MS in Montgomery County (MD) when the first subsidized housing project (MoCO’s prized SES integration program) opened in that school district. The discipline issues had been of the minor and infrequent variety, but there was an immediate increase in the number and severity of offenses, including those with an improvised weapon. Fights became fairly common, including between/among girls, and were usually within the group of kids from the new housing project.
    Considering the county’s demographics, the white and Asian kids will be disciplined for loud breathing. Blacks, Hispanics and spec ed kids will get away with almost anything. Some from that last group have been problems for decades. Many teacher friends heard; “you can’t do anything to me because I have an IEP” on a pretty regular basis – and the admin didn’t do anything.

  4. Stacy in NJ says:

    My prediction: A record number of Asian and whites students leaving public schools for private or, if they’re lucky, charter schools. And, a greater demand for voucher programs and less diversity within schools and districts.

    Some folks just seem to want a mass exodus.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    My daughter just took a 2/3 cut in pay to leave an increasingly diverse HS. There are three HS in the system, which includes about ten teachers in her field. Six left this spring. Good luck to the HR folks.
    Where we used to live, the HS, with almost no fighting whatsoever to that point through the years, had sixteen fights, all among girls from the new public housing development in the district. By Christmas.

  6. If you research the work of Dr. Nadine Burke on adverse childhood experiences and their impact on physical, emotional and mental health, you can see that it’s much more complicated than imposing proportionate discipline by fiat.

    To sum up, children from deprived homes and violent communities are likely to suffer increased physical, emotional and mental illness, correlating with the traumas in their lives. Insisting that infractions — and also diagnoses of disability — be apportioned by race in equal shares is the equivalent of requiring that asthma or diabetes be diagnosed in equal proportions in each ethnic group.

    In my district, it’s the more clueless of the left/progressives who are insistent about bean-counting in this way. (Though in the ’90s, then-Superintendent Bill Rojas — no leftist and a big fan of privatization and Edison Schools — imposed an absolute order: No more African-American children may be diagnosed as disabled, period.)

    Right-wingers like to seize on these issues to as a convenient justification for teacher-bashing, too. I guess it transcends politics.

    It would be so valuable if the discussion of adverse childhood experiences were higher profile and everyone involved were more thoughtful and more diligent about informing themselves.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Caroline. While we’re thoughtfully discussing the issue, what do we do to protect the non-butthead kids?
    Currently, we ask only people over eighteen to risk their lives for the state. I dunno about asking twelve-year-olds to be punching bags while we figure this thing out.

    • Well, we jettison the idiotic idea of allocating a discipline quota per ethnicity and discipline justly and effectively as needed, for one thing.

      That said, my kids went through diverse urban public schools without being punching bags, risking their lives or any of the kind of incidents you evoke, @Richard. It’s not a given in diverse urban schools. Here’s the way I often articulate my view to the uninitiated:

      A school that’s overwhelmed by a critical mass of high-need, at-risk, challenged students becomes overwhelmed and struggles (in this conversation, suffers an increase in lawlessness and a deterioration toward chaos). A school that serves a percentage of high-need, at-risk, challenged students that falls short of that critical mass can cope and function effectively. The percentage that constitutes the critical mass may vary depending on characteristics of the school (including resources and the ability to discipline as needed, or not).

      Defining that doesn’t solve the problem for kids who are attending highly challenged schools, or their teachers. But obviously you acknowledge that the situation at your daughter’s school isn’t the fault of the teacher or the school. You do realize that the so-called reform voices here, and throughout the land, place all the blame on her.

      Meanwhile, don’t imply that this is the norm for urban schools.

      Also, @momof4, don’t tar all students with disabilities. Disabilities run the gamut, and some students with mental and emotional disabilities may be extreme behavior challenges. Most students with disabilities aren’t. (If you’re not the teacher, you don’t know which students or how many have IEPs.) There but for fortune go one or more of yours or mine.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        I completely agree. It is definitely not the fault of the teachers. I would love to see my union back teachers in this area, rather than going along with this sh*t.

      • Reading that little tract one could almost forget that in those “challenged” schools the kids are seen as an inevitable annoyance as are the teachers with the ideal situation being an empty school presided over by a well-paid cohort of administrators who never have to deal with unpleasant, messy problems like violent kids.

        It’s no accident that the first line of defense in those “challenged” schools is to try to hush up incidents of violence and try to get the victim to *not* pursue legal remedies.

        The administrative personnel, after all, have no clear, legally-enforceable responsibility – or any responsibility at all – to maintain a safe school and it’s only the eruptions of violence that encumber that pleasing state of affairs. Certainly the people who run the schools have no responsibility to the parents or teachers to maintain safe schools so it should be no surprise that they act as if they have no responsiblity to the parents for the safety of the kids or to the teachers for their safety.

        It’s only the credulity of the public that obscures the indifference of administrative personnel to safety issues since most people dismiss without consideration that the folks who run our schools are more concerned with their own embarrassment then they are with kids getting killed and raped.

        But even coming to terms with that indifference just requires the answering of the obvious question: why would administrators reflexively ignore or hush up violence? Does the public education system select for sociopaths for administration? Obviously not. But the incentives that the public education system creates for its administrative personnel do select for that type of behavior.

        So to change the behavior, change the incentives. Unfortunately those incentives are structural, springing from the organization of public education and Caroline, and other, similar defenders of the educational status quo, are averse to any foundational changes to the public education system.

      • I did not tar all spec ed kids; I said that some deliberately used that status to “justify” their inappropriate behavior. According to my teacher friends, the problem was not kids with severe issues; it was the kids with ADHD, anxiety etc. who played that game. In some cases, the diagnosis was questionable from the get-go. The SAT had just removed the “non-standard testing conditions” label from their reports and some parents were gaming the system with diagnoses from compliant outside practitioners. We knew more than a few who did so and I’m strongly against the practice. I’m blaming admins for not backing up their teachers. That said, I don’t believe that kids with severe behavioral/emotional issues (whether spec ed or just jerks) belong in a regular classroom.

        • “I did not tar all spec ed kids”

          spec ed kids will get away with almost anything.

          Yes you did, though I’m sure you didn’t mean to.

          • I was tarring the individual (MS-HS) kids who were playing that card and the admins and the system’s lawyers for allowing it. As soon as it becomes obvious that there will be no penalty, there will be more inappropriate behavior, and there was. The received message was that black, Hispanic and spec ed kids would not be held to the same behavioral standards as the rest of the kids. Most of the problem was with the same handful of kids, over and over and over… tough luck for the kids in their classes.

        • momof4 is precisely right; a lot of the Special Ed kids (far too many) use that status to cheat the system, like how a lot of food stamp / electrical bill covered by the government / etc. recipients play the system these days. Have you ever seen the parents of some of these kids ‘negotiating’ with the school board and principals over what will be in their IEPs? It’s like watching an agent for a pro athlete negotiate with the owner of a sports team… And none of them give a !@#$ about what the teacher will have to do / go through / put up with, etc.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Caroline. Nobody blames my daughter or her colleagues who are leaving the system.
    Actually, people blame the students who victimize other students and the admin which lets them get away with it. People blame the apologists. People blame the morons who came up with “minority push out”.
    My daughter figures being assaulted twice in one year was not in the job description.
    Thing is, I’ve been uptown, downtown, out in the country, in trailer parks and mansions in my business and never been assaulted in forty years. My daughter…twice in one year and squatall done about it.

    • Oh yes, @Richard, all kinds of people are blaming the teachers, very definitely including your daughter. Our national education policy, driven by non-educators like Bill Gates, focuses very directly on blaming the teachers. Remember how the Obama administration applauded the firing of every teacher at high-poverty Central Falls High School in Rhode Island?

    • Not in the *official* job description but getting assaulted is just one of the little issues your daughter has to face as a teacher because, as a teacher, she’s not very important.

      Also, her job isn’t to teach kids although she can do that if it doesn’t interfere with her real duties. No, her job is to fill in her paperwork and to be as little trouble to her superiors as possible while shielding her superiors from any embarrassments or discomforts. As long as she can manage that she’s gold. If she can’t then what’s the point of paying her?

      By the way Richard, notice that Caroline doesn’t give much a hang about your daughter having been assaulted?

      Caroline, like a good advocate of the current system, has to split her time between fulsome praise for our secular saints and treating them like dirt. Teachers are only important to people like Caroline where they’re useful as icons but if it comes to a choice between defending the status quo or a teacher the teacher loses every time.

  9. It’s manifestly clear that Richard Aubrey has some sort of reading disorder. He has twice now accusingly asked Caroline how she’ll protect teachers, which is a disconcertingly bizarre interpretation of Caroline’s disagreement with the policy.

    Mike, nice use of dishonest quoting. Mom clearly said “Some” speced kids will do x, y, and z.

    However, I’m a bit surprised at all the energy, since disparate impact runs through every aspect of the educational system, so why get fussed? This can’t possibly hold up.

    • Cal, the subordinate quotation was this: “Some from that last group have been problems for decades. ” That does not qualify the first statement. Given your inability to read and regular displays of intellectual dishonesty, I am not surprised you weren’t able to understand. I respect momof4, even if I often disagree with her. I don’t respect you at all.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Cal. Maybe you could help me out here. I would expect you to misrepresent what I said if you were talking to people who had no idea of what I said. You could expect to get away with it.
    But I don’t get the math, if you will, of misrepresenting what I said when everybody involved in the discussion has either seen it, or could scroll up to look at it, or both.
    How’s that supposed to work?
    Anyway, I think the closest to “protecting” any of my comments came was asking what to do about protecting the “non-butthead kids”.
    Although, come to think about it, I suppose one might be concerned about protecting teachers, too.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    About disparate impact penalties not holding up: Among other things, affirmative action is holding up quite well. So unfair and counterproductive government schemes get momentum and acquire beneficiaries such as diversity hacks, bean-counters, holier-than-thou guilt trippers, and “programs” which always means money.
    And even if it doesn’t hold up, there will be some serious damage done before it ceases holding up.
    See, to prove that an institution is not discriminating according to race in discipline it will be necessary to break out offenses by race, which will no doubt be forbidden. Or at least called racist and hate speech and the admin in question will cave. Suppose, during the Duke lax rape hoax, somebody had brought up the numbers of white on black gang rape–not even a rounding error–vs. black on white gang rape–hugely, grossly disproportionate–as a way of describing the unlikelihood of the charges. It would be true, but it would be professional suicide for anybody in a position of influence to mention it.

    • My husband is a teacher, and also, I’m advocating for policies that make schools safer — including not putting racial quotas on imposing discipline.

      My other point, which needs to be emphasized again, is that the so-called “reformers” emphatically, constantly, directly and viciously blame teachers, including @Richard’s daughter, my husband and all their colleagues, for struggling to maintain peace and discipline in high-poverty schools that serve many troubled students.

      Please make no mistake about that.

      • Teachers are the ultimate scapegoats of the K-12 school system. The principals, the parents, the KIDS, the school board, the politicians… They all pile on and dump on the teachers together, because they have no power and can take the abuse so that they can all get away with their own incompetencies (yes, the parents included!)

        Anyone who teaches in the K-12 school system at this point in time is either a saint, has a death wish, or both.

      • Do those “reformers” turn a blind eye to daily assaults on teachers? On kids?

        No, but the system you’re so bent on trying to shield from all criticism does turn a blind eye to all sorts of outrages not the least of which, sadly enough, is simple assault.

        • There are already cases where teachers have been beaten, then the student (who is unharmed, because the teacher was afraid to defend themselves for legal fears) claims that the teacher touched them somehow first; then the teacher gets arrested, goes to jail, stands trial, reputation and career ruined (whether acquitted or not), no job future, and still has to recover from being beaten, all due to an evil student. So, in a country where neither administrators, parents, or even the LAW protects teachers, why would anyone want to be a teacher again?

  12. Here in Texas the pressure to reduce minority discipline issues comes from the state. I’ve seen it at my school and at other schools in the district.

    Of course, ideally the punishment should fit the crime, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.

  13. If you’re a teacher – get out of the K-12 school system, NOW, before you end up disabled or dead at the hands of a student who knows they’ve got a freebie offense and that they’re a minor (so they know they won’t go to state prison). Your lives are at stake here, people! Time to get out while you still can!

  14. Dr. Deano says:

    If oppressing children not belonging to protected identity groups can be codified in law within the educational segment of society, then why not other segments?

    How long before Obama and/or some other state government mandates the same remedy to our overall criminal justice system for example? Or the IRS and tax returns? Or discipline in business/employment matters?

    After all, it would only mean increased oppression of Non-PC-Americans – and they are after all, the source of all PC-American’s problems….