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“School Discipline Gaps” in Minnesota: Are They Really a Mystery?

This brief Associated Press article is a classic of the genre, on an increasingly important subject:

A new study highlighting wide gaps in school discipline between Minnesota’s white and minority students is raising concerns among state human rights leaders.

Some would say that it should be raising concerns among leaders of minority groups whose students are behaving badly, so as to incur discipline.

The report released Friday found students of color were twice as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers, despite making up a smaller share of students.

The phrase “students of color” is telling. I will try to track down the report, but are all “students of color” equal when it comes to discipline? For example, are Indian-American students suspended or expelled at the same rate as African-American or Native American students? I doubt it. But: if not, why not?

Native American students were ten times as likely to be disciplined as white students.

This is obviously a bad thing, but unless we know why students are being disciplined, it is impossible to tell where our concerns should lie.

Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey says the department plans to work with schools “to ensure equal treatment” of students.

But what reason is there to think that students are not already being treated equally? Does Minnesota’s Human Rights Commissioner seriously believe that school administrators are needlessly suspending or expelling well-behaved “students of color” out of some misguided animus? If so, I would gently suggest that he is out of touch with reality.

The department did not include discipline from fights, possession of weapons or drugs in its study.

This laconic final sentence is intriguing, to say the least. Why on Earth would the most serious offenses–fighting or possessing weapons or drugs–be excluded from the study? I suppose because the rates of suspension or expulsion of “students of color” are at least as high, or more likely higher, for these obviously suspendible offenses. In other words, the study was rigged to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion.

As I said, school discipline quotas represent an increasingly important issue. Why? Because they are making school ineffective and even dangerous for a great many normal students. For example, see this eloquent letter by a mother of a student in the Madison, Wisconsin public school system. It concludes:

I can tell you, Principal Boran…that [a] majority of West students DO FEEL that West is not a safe place to go to school…they are all too horribly aware of the stark reality that a CONCERTED UNWILLINGNESS TO CRACK DOWN ON UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIORS — essentially a NON-DISCIPLINE POLICY – is what creates an environment that any concerned parent would find untenable, unacceptable, and frankly, would see as a broken system. The vast majority are therefore at the mercy of the tyranny of the few who DO engage in repeated unacceptable aggressive behaviors – and at the mercy of the school policy that coddles the offenders and brings fear to the hearts of the students who behave properly and just want to learn and make it home each day without “incident.”

I can tell you there are great numbers of TEACHERS as well who feel the same way but who are all but silenced and made to submit to the groupthink that engenders such insanity — for fear of rocking the boat.

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