Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the viral-video incident at Spring Valley High School to push President Barack Obama’s campaign to reduce school punishments for black and Latino students.
“The ugly truth – the harsh reality – is that still today in 2015, some children are far more likely to face harsh discipline than others, simply because of their zip code or the color of their skin,” he insisted during a Friday press conference in Memphis. “That’s unacceptable and not a reality anybody should be willing to live with.”
“This week we’ve been forced to again confront how far we still have to go in the struggle for true equality,” he said, referring to the viral videos that showed a popular school-security officer in Spring Valley High School forcefully removing a disruptive student from a classroom.
“Our schools must be a pathway to opportunity, not a pipeline to prison,” Duncan added, according to Education Week.
When questioned, Duncan declined to speak specifically about the Spring Valley High incident on the grounds that the DOJ has opened an investigation into the case, but he still insisted it was all about race;
As I’ve said repeatedly, every year, every single year, our K-12 schools suspend roughly three and a half million students, and refer a quarter of a million children to the police for arrest. If our collective goal is to end the school-to-prison pipeline, that is simply unacceptable. These aren’t just somehow numbers, or statistics, they’re our children. And it should come as no surprise that these children being suspended and arrested are disproportionately students of color and students with disabilities. We can no longer have this conversation, let alone fix the problem, if we’re unwilling to talk about race.
Duncan urged that we “take a hard look at ourselves, and our history, and the implicit biases that we all carry.”
The Obama administration – including both the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education – issued school guidelines in 2014 that claim students of color are “disproportionately impacted” by suspensions and expulsions.
As Breitbart News reported Sunday, despite the Obama administration’s attempt to make the incident about race, hundreds of both black and white students at Spring Valley High walked out in support of Ben Fields, the Richland County sheriff’s deputy who was fired after the incident.
Ironically, as reported by Breitbart News last March, one year after the Obama administration issued its new race-based guidelines, Hoover Institution media fellow Paul Sperry observed in the New York Post that liberal policies such as “restorative justice” and “peer juries” are recommended for students of color rather than discipline for unacceptable behavior. These policies based on social justice ideology, however, are actually making schools less safe, noted Sperry.
Restorative justice,” he wrote, “isn’t really punishment at all. It’s therapy.”
The new policies may lead to fewer suspensions, but Sperry warned those reports do not necessarily mean there have been fewer infractions of the rules.
In Portland, Oregon, he reported, where millions of dollars have been spent on restorative justice and “courageous conversations about race,” a black high school student repeatedly punched his white teacher in the face, sending her to the emergency room. Subsequently, the teacher was reportedly counseled by the assistant principal not to press charges against the student, and was “lectured … about how hard it is for young black men to overcome a criminal record.” Additionally, the teacher said, according to the Willamette Week, the administrator told her to examine what role she, “as a white woman” with white privilege bias, played in her own attack.
Hans Bader, senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also told Breitbart News, “To try to reduce unintended racial disparities, schools, encouraged by the Office for Civil Rights, are replacing suspension for violent offenders with talking circles and ‘restorative justice’ (even as they continue to suspend kids for things like toy guns).”
“As a result, school violence is increasing, and students are escaping discipline for things like threatening teachers and setting classmates’ hair on fire,” Bader added. “But ironically, it’s not reducing the only disparity that matters in the eyes of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – the ratio of suspended blacks to whites, because cutting the overall suspension rate does nothing to the relative ratio, which is what legally defines ‘disparate impact’ under OCR rules–and it’s increasing school violence and injustice.”