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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Revoke federal letter on suspensions, race

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School safety is more important than racial balance in suspensions, argues Jason L. Riley in the Wall Street Journal.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will end “rule by letter,” she said last week, pledging to rethink the federal “guidance” that changed how colleges deal with  accusations of campus sexual assault. DeVos also should rescind the 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter that threatened to investigate school districts that suspend more blacks than whites, writes Riley.

School districts have cut suspensions dramatically, he writes. There’s evidence new policies have made it harder for teachers to keep order, hurting motivated students.

After the Los Angeles school district, where more than 82% of students are Latino or black, ended suspensions for nonviolent offenses, the district reported that the number of students who said they felt safe in school dropped to 60% from 72%. When Chicago curbed suspensions, students and teachers felt the increased disorder. And following New York City’s reforms making it more difficult to keep disruptive kids out of the classroom, the schools that showed increased fighting, gang activity and drug use tended to be those with the highest percentages of minority students. . . . As Max Eden, my colleague at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in a March report, these policies turn the focus toward the well-being of the bullies rather than their victims.

Katherine Kersten wrote about violence in St. Paul schools in No Thug Left Behind.

While suspended students are more likely to drop out of school, there’s “little evidence” that the suspension was the cause, argues Riley. The “school-to-prison pipeline” theory “has come under increasing scrutiny.”

A University of Arkansas study found suspended students were doing slightly better in reading and math a year later, according to a working paper published in March.

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