Increasing evidence supports the common sense intuition that when you tie teachers’ hands on maintaining order, bad things will happen to kids.
Last week, after nearly 100 days in office, President Trump issued an executive order declaring that “it shall be the policy of the executive branch to protect and preserve State and local control in education.” The order gives Education Secretary Betsy DeVos 300 days to itemize regulations and guidance where the federal government overstepped its bounds. But DeVos would need little more than a minute to rescind perhaps the single most destructive action taken by the Obama Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights: federal “guidance” on school discipline.
Activists, advocates, and academics had been ringing the alarm over the racial disparity in suspension rates. And it is certainly troubling that African-American students are suspended at three times the rate of white students.
A sober mind might assume that might largely reflect tragic realities in our society. As Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, has argued, “it cannot surprise us if minority students today misbehave at ‘disproportionate’ rates. African American and Latino children in America are much more likely to face challenges,” such a living in poverty, growing up in a single-parent family, or living in a dangerous neighborhood, that puts “them ‘at risk’ for antisocial behavior.”
But Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared flatly that this is “not caused by differences in children,” but rather “it is adult behavior that needs to change.” Now, implicit bias likely accounts for some share of the disparity. But if you assume....