A pattern we’ve seen throughout the United States is on a roll in California. Last week, the state Senate approved a bill to prohibit schools from suspending students who engage in “willful defiance” of teachers and other school authorities and staff. This permission slip for disruptive and even dangerous behavior also extends to the disruption of school activities.
The bill’s author and those who support it cite racial disparity as the driving reason for the ban. CBS Sacramento reported, “African-American students made up 5.6% of enrollment in California schools in 2017-18, but accounted for 15.6% of willful defiance suspensions. Conversely, white students made up 23.2% of statewide enrollment but made up only 20.2% of willful defiance suspensions.”
In other words, the implication is that the underlying reason for the disparity is racism. Yet, it’s the teachers and principals on the front line who make the decisions about who should be suspended. Is the State of California saying its teachers are racist? Or is this an excuse to create “racial parity?”
That’s what Jason Riley at The Wall Street Journal believes. In a piece last year about Obama administration guidance to schools on the issue, he noted, “Put another way, the [Obama] administration was demanding racial parity in school discipline, regardless of who was being disruptive, which is as silly as demanding racial parity in police arrests, regardless of who’s committing crimes. The result is that more schools have been disciplining fewer students in order to achieve racial balance in suspension rates and stay out of trouble with the federal government.”
California passed a similar bill last year when Jerry Brown was governor. He vetoed it, stating in part, “Teachers and principals are on the front lines educating our children and are in the best position to make decisions about order and discipline in the classroom. That’s why I vetoed a similar bill in 2012. … Let’s give educators a chance to invest that money wisely before issuing any further directives from the state.”
Now the Democrats, in complete control of state government, are trying again. Gavin Newsom is now governor, and the odds of him signing the bill, which will cause more disruption and damage to the lives of young people, is high.
A great deal of the coverage of this issue comes from a legacy media that also prefers to applaud the numbers game, as though lowering the percentage of students being suspended somehow indicates improvement in the quality of those students’ lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “After New York City made it more difficult to remove troublemakers from the classroom, schools with the highest percentages of minority students were more likely to experience an increase in fighting, gang activity and drug use. A federal report on school crime and safety released last year by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 25% of black students nationwide reported being bullied, the highest proportion of any racial or ethnic group.”
Promoting a focus supporting troublemakers abandons the innocent students, also kids of color, who are in the classroom to learn. Why are these students thrown aside, left to navigate increasingly disturbing and dangerous environments?
“After Chicago limited school suspensions, researchers found a significant deterioration in teacher-reported classroom order and student-reported peer relationships. After Los Angeles limited school suspensions, the percentage of students who said they felt safe in school plummeted from 72 to 60,” noted Max Eden in commentary at the New York Post.
“After St. Paul. Minn., limited school suspensions, the number of student assaults on staff tripled in one year. After Oklahoma City limited suspensions, one teacher reported she was ‘told that referrals would not require suspension unless there was blood,’ ” the New York Post reported.
In the meantime, all this government intervention tying the hands of teachers and school authorities hasn’t exactly led California into the Hall of Fame for student achievement.
Last summer, the San Jose Mercury News stated, “CALmatters reported last year that [Gov. Jerry] Brown’s school funding policy, known as the Local Control Funding Formula, has largely failed to bridge the academic achievement gap between the state’s poor students and their wealthier peers. …
“African-American fourth-graders from low-income families scored 210 on a 500-point scale in math — 10 points worse than poor Hispanic boys and almost 15 points worse than poor white boys. … California’s black boys are struggling the most of all, the national test data show,” the newspaper reported.
It does appear that Democrats, whose policies destroy the economy and increase poverty, are trying to cover up the results of the corresponding despair and hopelessness that also manifests in the classroom. Their answer is not to face what’s happening in neighborhoods struggling with poverty, gangs and drugs, and the impact on young people. Instead, it’s to game the system making life even more difficult (and dangerous) for every student so Democratic politicians can look better on paper.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.