Racial bean-counting is making schools unsafe
President Obama’s acting secretary of education, John King, hijacked Martin Luther King Jr. Day to accuse public schools of racism because black students are punished more often and more harshly than others.
The Obama administration has been threatening school districts with lawsuits and federal-funding cuts wherever it finds “racial disparities” in who gets suspended or expelled.
But racism isn’t to blame. Black students misbehave more often. Tragically, school administrators are so fearful of saying it that they’re being intimidated into ceding control of classrooms to violent, disruptive students.
That’s the story in New York City, where serious crimes in schools are soaring. Forcible sex offenses are up 90 percent year over year, according to state statistics. Assaults with weapons causing serious injuries are up 69 percent.
Mayor de Blasio has implemented the Obama administration’s policy of replacing suspensions with “restorative justice” — a kind of talk therapy — even for serious offenses such as insubordination, fighting, arson, assaults and marijuana possession.
The only penalty for a student at Adlai Stevenson High School in The Bronx caught with seven bags of marijuana on him was being handed a warning card that said “Please bring this card home to your parent(s)/guardian so you can discuss the matter with them.”
Sounds more like “Leave It to Beaver” than 2016. It would be laughable — if it weren’t so destructive.
The de Blasio administration is touting a dramatic decrease in school suspensions. That’s only because the unruly students are allowed to stay in the classroom, continuing to disrupt. Last week, at a United Federation of Teachers meeting, 81 percent of teachers said their students are losing learning opportunities because of the disorder and violence.
No one believes black students should be treated differently from others. The notion that racist educators are to blame for more suspensions and expulsions of black students is preposterous, says Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald. Teaching is “the most liberal occupation.”
A primary cause of student-discipline problems is the breakdown of families, Mac Donald says, which is especially severe among African-Americans. These households are missing fathers. When discipline isn’t enforced at home, students don’t behave in school, either.
Or on the streets. Mac Donald points out that the homicide rate among males age 14 to 17 — high schoolers — is nearly 10 times higher for blacks than for whites.
Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group, is lambasting de Blasio for misrepresenting what’s happening in schools. City Hall claims school crime is down, but the pols are playing numbers games, mixing minor infractions with major crimes.
In terms of serious and violent crime, schools are more dangerous than before. Assaults are up a shocking 40 percent in one year.
The mayor’s coverup is an insult to caring parents and dedicated teachers alike. No wonder on this issue, de Blasio and the unions part ways.
De Blasio’s lax policies are “grooming criminals” according to Gregory Floyd, president of the union representing school-safety officers. Eighty-four percent of the schools deemed persistently dangerous by the state’s Education Department are in New York City.
“The mayor is saying crime is down in the schools. Crime is not disappearing. It’s just that we’re ignoring it,” reports Floyd, who is also opposing de Blasio’s push to reduce the use of metal detectors at schools.
Ignoring school crime punishes all students. But the biggest losers are from poor, often minority, families who can’t afford to escape these dangerous schools.
That’s why de Blasio and the Obama administration should stop the racial head-counting and adopt a color-blind approach to discipline. That would actually honor, rather than exploit, the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., who had a dream that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.