- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2018

President Trump’s new federal commission on school safety will consider repealing an Obama administration policy that discouraged expelling or suspending unruly students due to concerns that such disciplinary actions unfairly target minorities.

The president’s school safety plan released in detail Monday said the commission, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, will look at killing the Obama policy known as “Rethink School Discipline.”

President Obama’s approach to school discipline was announced in 2014 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder and then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The Obama Justice and Education departments advised school districts that discipline policies could constitute “unlawful discrimination” under federal civil rights law if they resulted in a “disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.”

It was also incorporated into President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that focused on providing mentorship and opportunities to minority boys and young men.

In recent years, large school districts have moved away from punishing misbehaving students with suspensions or expulsions, favoring ideas like “restorative justice” or programs that focus on the reasons why a student misbehaved.

In placing its sights on that policy, the Trump administration could be signaling that the time for such thinking has ended.

A White House official said the commission “will review school discipline policies to ensure all students are treated fairly, and school administrators have the means to engage law enforcement if a serious disciplinary issue or violent crime has occurred.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has urged the administration to revise the Obama-era guidance, to make sure that schools report dangerous students to police.

In a letter, Mr. Rubio said the 2014 guidance “discouraged schools from referring students to local law enforcement.” He said stiff federal penalties for high suspension rates “arguably made it easier for schools to not report students to law enforcement.”

Another surprise in that the commission intends to study “effects of press coverage on mass shootings,” according to the administration’s outline.

Some people in law enforcement and other professions believe that heavy media coverage of such tragedies encourages “copycat” attacks.

Two researchers at Western New Mexico University released a study in 2016 that said mass shootings have increased threefold since 2000, and that media coverage of shooters’ actions inspires others who also seek such “fame.” They asserted that at least one-third of such shootings could be prevented by more responsible reporting.

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