SIMMONS: Teachers get their fill as classes empty

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Black youths are more likely to be suspended, kicked out of school or arrested than white youths, and all three occurrences are more pronounced in urban school systems, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office.

The report, released last week, took a broad approach, looking at 2009-10 school-year data in 72,000 schools and in 7,000 school districts that serve an estimated 85 percent of our students attending kindergarten through high school.

The disciplinary facts are neither shocking nor disturbing, as they reflect both the reality and the perception of the nation’s overall crime rates.

But think for a moment.

As officials march to various drumbeats of the school reform movement, who carries the heavier burden?

Our youths, or teachers and principals who implement zero-tolerance policies targeting students?

In releasing the data, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.”

That word “equity” is fully loaded, stoking different thoughts and feelings in different folks.

At first blush, it could mean fewer black kids would be deemed disciplinary and behavioral problem kids. Then again, it could mean we’ll start to see more white kids being kicked to curb of the schoolhouse.

Either way, black and white youths would suffer an identical fate: no full-time public schooling and/or criminal records.

Since we’re supposed to be moving in the other direction, a glaring omission in the civil rights office’s study appears obvious.

What fate do teachers and principals suffer when they break the very rules hoisted upon their students?

A D.C. example: A grade school teacher called a student “dumb” and “stupid,” and his family is having ongoing discussions with the teacher and the school about what happened and possible consequences at the school for the boy.

The boy is embarrassed because the name-calling occurred in front of the class, and his family is concerned because the school has said it does not plan to take any disciplinary action against the teacher.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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