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Suspension politics = unsafe schools

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — In the wake of Woke educrats drastically cutting suspensions as a form of discipline, students are feeling much less safe in their schools, according to a new study by the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty (WILL).

“Suspended Reality: The Impact of Suspension Policy on Student Safety” takes a look at the aftermath of the Obama administration’s so-called “Dear Colleague” letters demanding school districts reduce the gaps in suspensions for those of different racial backgrounds. In other words, black students getting suspended at higher rates than other students was evidence of racism, according to the practitioners of race politics.

WILL Research Director Will Flanders and Policy Intern Amelia Wedward used state Department of Public Instruction school suspension data and multi-year survey data from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on school safety. Among the study’s findings:

  • Reduced Suspension for African American Students Resulted in Lower Reports of Safety. When suspension rates for African American students fell, the share of students reporting that they feel unsafe in their school’s hallways went up.
  • African American Students Suffer the African American students are heavily concentrated in schools with other African Americans, meaning other African American students bear the brunt of lax discipline practices.

“This research has important implications for policymakers at both the state and federal level. It shows there are real-world, negative implications from applying political correctness to school discipline standards,” the study states. “Moreover, students in the group that is ostensibly meant to be helped by relaxed discipline are actually the most likely to be harmed.”

In 2014, school districts began receiving federal directives requiring them to reduce student suspension rates for minority students and students with disabilities. The Obama administration intervened in local and state business through guidance policy, not a regulatory or statutory requirement that would have resulted in oversight by Congress. The ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter stated that racial disparities—specifically for black students—were found within school discipline numbers.

Suspension rates were “almost four times higher for black students than whites,” the administration said. Treating students equally would no longer do. Failing to address the “disparity” would result in violations of federal anti-discrimination laws.

“The ‘Dear Colleague’ expanded to include disparate impact—meaning that students’ discipline must be given with their race in mind—to ensure some students are disciplined less while other students are disciplined more,” WILL’s report notes. “The administration then threatened federal action if African American suspension rates were not reduced. Therefore, to escape lawsuits or cuts to federal funding, many school districts agreed to the government’s decree.”

Milwaukee Public Schools did. It appears to have done so under duress.

“We have to, it’s not optional,” said Darienne Driver, who was MPS superintendent at the time.

President Obama’s heavy-handed initiative was criticized as reactionary, failing to target the root problems.

“Instead of addressing concerning trends of violence in the classroom, the policy operated under the assumption that teachers were the problem and their actions were discriminatory,” WILL’s study states.

After President Trump took office, WILL and fellow conservative groups sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to put an end to the 2014 ‘Dear Colleague’ policy. In 2018, DeVos officially revoked the policies which would punish schools that had “disparate impacts” on minority groups.

But it looks like President Joe Biden, vice president under Obama, is bringing back the punitive, politically correct policies.

And at the state level, DPI recently proposed a rule that would replace many instances of “equality” with “equity” — a Woke buzzword that insists on equal outcomes.

Disruption and disorder in the classroom have followed lax disciplinary policy.

WILL’s report notes a 2019 Fordham Institute and RAND Corporation survey of more than 1,200 teachers across the country. Results reveal an education workforce worn down by continued disrespect in the classroom.

“These teachers see that it is the students in the class who want to learn who suffer most from a subset of misbehaving students, and believe that suspensions should be used more, rather than less often,” the study states. “Contrary to the narratives around racism in discipline policy, African American teachers were also likely to believe that suspensions are not being used enough.”

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