Obama Demands Race-Based School Discipline

President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order hiring race-sensitive bureaucrats to hold meetings and mandate racial discipline quotas.

The order charges his new racial justice team, in part, with "promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools."  In plain English, that means that if different races have different incidences of disciplinary action, those of a favored race who act worse will be punished less, or those of a disfavored race who act better will be punished more, or both.

It's true that a higher percentage of black students than white students receive school discipline such as suspensions or expulsion.  A recent, representative study of nearly half the country's school districts found that 17.3 percent of black students were suspended in 2009-10, whereas 4.7 percent of whites and 7.3 percent of Latinos were.  Only 2.1 percent of Asians were suspended that year.  The black graduation rate is 64 percent.  For whites, it's 82 percent, and for Asians, it's 92 percent.

Given these and similar statistics on practically every measure of academic success and self-discipline, the president wants to require schools to punish equal proportions of white and black students, regardless of how individual students behave.  That will mean overlooking infractions by black students or punishing more white students for pettier infractions.

Punishing students differently based on skin color -- that's not racist?

The president's reasoning is utterly incoherent: the superior performance of Asian students must indicate that schools are racist against whites, according to his thinking.  Requiring equal discipline outcomes as the president desires would punish good behavior by white, Asian, and Latino students and reward bad behavior by black students.  That is just a horrific moral example, teaching students that rewards and punishment should be dictated by race, which you cannot control, instead of behavior, which you can.

The president's policies would perpetuate a victim mentality among minority students -- and such a mindset victimizes no one more than those who hold it.  A person who believes that her unhappiness is someone else's fault will be demoralized or motivated to act out against those she thinks have oppressed her, rather than inspired to rise above her circumstances.

That will accelerate the cycle of futile violence and lack of academic ambition already roiling urban schools.  Black high school students are 60 percent more likely than whites, and more than twice as likely as Asians, to be in a physical fight on school property, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC lists risk factors for violent behavior, including family instability, poor self-control, antisocial beliefs and attitudes (such as, perhaps, "everyone's out to get me because of my race"), low parental education and income, low parental involvement, and poor academic performance.

All these behaviors also correlate with something more prevalent among blacks than any other major U.S. group: single motherhood.  Two-thirds of black children live with a lone parent.  Children of single mothers are more likely to drop out of school, never attend college, and learn less.  They are more likely to be aggressive, depressed, and distressed.  These children have been irrevocably harmed by their own parents, not by school discipline policies.

Eliminating racial disparities requires race-blindness so all people will rise on their own merits and know they can do so, not giving children a free ride for failure.  The real tragedy is that while the president attempts to mandate injustice through race-based school discipline quotas, he refuses to address black Americans about what gives their children the best chance at a good life: an intact family.

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and a research fellow in education at The Heartland Institute.

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