The New York Times reports that the safety commission organized in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has issued a report recommending that the Trump administration repeal Obama-era guidelines meant to address disproportionately high and unjust disciplinary actions that students of color, particularly black students, face at school. One might wonder, too, why a commission organized to respond to mass school shootings, most of which have been perpetrated by white men, has focused on dismantling a policy that supports marginalized students. Regulating access to guns in a country drowning in them is not part of the Department’s reported recommendations.
While the documents are still in the draft stage, the Times reports:
The documents obtained by The Times — a draft letter and a draft chapter of the safety commission’s research — focus significantly on race and promote the idea that the federal crackdown on potentially discriminatory practices has made schools more dangerous.
“The federal government’s paramount obligation is to guarantee student safety, including when it is acting to ensure that educational programs and policies are administered in a racially neutral fashion,” the commission wrote. “However, where well-meaning but flawed policies endanger student safety, they must be changed.”
... “The guidance burdened local school districts, potentially exceeded the departments’ legal authority and may have made students less safe,” Trump civil rights officials wrote.
Kelly Laco, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the policies are under review “to prevent improper rule making and executive branch overreach.”
This is bullshit. Research has shown that black students are disciplined and harassed at higher rates than their peers, and that they have far fewer opportunities than white students, who are also more likely to attend schools with better resources, well-trained teachers, and more funding. Even the Education Department knows this: According to the most recent report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the disproportionately high rate of harassment and disciplinary actions that black students face raises “concerns that schools may be engaging in racial discrimination that violates the federal civil rights laws.”
The Obama-era policies, which concluded that “racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem,” asked schools to be mindful of this racial bias with a nondiscriminatory approach to discipline, examine data to uncover biases within schools, and report civil rights violations.
The Education and Justice Department, however, now argue that “disparities that fall along racial lines may be due to societal factors other than race,” a maddening, ignorant argument familiar to any person of color who has experienced racism. Like Trump’s immigration policies, the commission is removing protections for black and brown people under the guise of safety. But in fact, they are doing the opposite, militarizing schools and supporting those with privilege.