- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2012

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.

But — and this is a huge BUT — the boy could face suspension if he cuts up in class for any reason or retaliates with untoward behavior.

Work with me.

The race, name and location of the school are irrelevant (although I agreed to mask all three, for now).

The point is it’s far easier for schools to draw up do-not-cross lines for students, while we seem to be increasingly accepting of an erosion in teacher accountability, whether it relates to students’ academic performance and test scores or teachers’ behavior.

It’s the old do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality.

Teachers are the only beneficiaries when kids aren’t in school.

Public school teachers get paid whether they’re standing before a classroom of 30 students or only half the class shows up all week long.

Part of the reason for that long-standing financial giveaway is that school districts are allowed to hold on to money even when the kid no longer shows up for school.

We have an astonishingly high dropout rate — with America’s Promise Alliance saying that 7,000 high schoolers drop out every school day, or one 26 seconds — while the cost of schooling rises each year.

What exactly is driving up the costs?

Salaries.

The mo’ money cry needs to be tamped down.

Indeed, it’s time to demand mo’ bang for all the big bucks.

The feds told us what we already knew.

It’s what we don’t know that’s hurting us all.

Why do teachers and schools get to keep our money when those 7,000 dropouts — blacks, whites, Asians, Indians and Hispanics — are no longer seated in class?

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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