Unintended consequences

Kersten testimony cites chaos in St. Paul schools to argue against race-based disciplinary policies.

American Experiment Senior Policy Fellow Katherine Kersten submitted testimony to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. last month for a public briefing entitled The School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Intersections of Students of Color with Disabilities. She said the briefing examined the race-based school discipline policies imposed on public schools by the Obama Administration in a 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter that declared that students should be disciplined based on their race or ethnicity, not their behavior.

She cited the chaos in Saint Paul Public Schools that resulted from the district’s race-based disciplinary policies, as an example. Kersten has written extensively in Thinking Minnesota and elsewhere about how, according to her testimony, “This flawed premise has led to a host of disastrous, if unintended, consequences in schools where it has been applied.”

Race-based discipline policies in St. Paul, she said, “have generated violence and disorder, and produced an environment where learning is often impossible.” The reason? The policies have created “a segment of kids who consider themselves untouchable,” in the words of one veteran teacher.

Proponents of race-based discipline policies say they seek justice for poor and minority children, she wrote. “But it is poor and minority children, struggling to learn in anarchic classrooms, who suffer disproportionately from misguided equity policies. So long as disorder is allowed to flourish in the name of statistical parity, our nation’s yawning racial learning gap will continue to widen.”