Broward County’s School Leniency Program Part of Larger Obama-Era Plan to Force School ‘Equity’

US President Barack Obama chats with students while visiting a classroom at Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida on March 7, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Broward County, Florida, school leniency program that was likely the inspiration for the Obama administration’s plan to shrink the “school to prison pipeline” is part of a larger Obama-era plan to force school “equity.”

Nikolas Cruz, who could face the death penalty for the alleged murder of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was never arrested for prior reported violent acts and threats of violence, a likely reason why he was able to pass a background check and purchase the firearm he used in the shooting rampage.

The plan behind the Obama administration’s 2014 Dear Colleague letter that coerced public school districts into avoiding reports of aggressive and threatening behavior by minority students had been years in the making in Chicago when Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie was still working for Arne Duncan, who was CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) prior to being tapped by President Barack Obama as U.S. education secretary.

The social justice campaign for “equity” – which took as its premise that minority students are disproportionately disciplined due to systemic racism and discrimination in schools – has many tentacles. Broward County appears to have been a model for the campaign.

The programs to keep minority students out of the justice system were part of the Obama administration’s 2011 Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the aim of which was “to coordinate federal actions to provide schools with effective alternatives to exclusionary discipline while encouraging a new emphasis on reducing disproportionality for students of color and students with disabilities.”

Jane Robbins and Erin Tuttle, co-authors with Emmett McGroarty of Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty, write at Truth in American Education the Obama-era Department of Justice awarded $840,000 to the Council of State Governments to start up the School Discipline Consensus Project. In yet another public-private partnership for education, that amount was matched by private foundations, including the NoVo Foundation – which Robbins and Tuttle observe is “a major player in the Social Emotional Learning scheme (teaching attitudes rather than academic content).”

Despite the facts that American students are failing in academics and the achievement gap has widened following years of the progressive reform known as the Common Core State Standards, public schools have become fixated on social and emotional learning, and “restorative” counseling and “healing circles” have become primary “supportive school discipline” methods.

Journalist Paul Sperry writes at RealClearInvestigations that, as the Broward County school district was working to reduce racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, it was also engineering a “reverse pipeline” – from jail to mainstream classrooms – in which potentially dangerous students would be released and returned to public schools.

Sperry observes school district records show Broward County has “transitioned” about 2,000 incarcerated students – some with a high risk of re-offenses – back into the school system.

According to another of the school district’s “student support initiatives,” known as the Behavior Intervention Program, it seeks “to ensure that students are assigned to the most appropriate setting, which is conducive to learning and maximizing academic achievement, growth, and development. The vision of the program is that all students are academically and socially successful.”

“The belief is that all students can learn and progress if given the proper tools, resources, appropriate educational setting, and environment,” the handbook states.

The program is intended for “students who exhibit severe, unmanageable behavior that cannot be adequately controlled in a traditional school setting.”

“Through the structures provided in this program, it is expected that students will acquire the necessary skills to enable them to optimally function in the traditional school setting when they return,” the handbook states.

Students referred to the program include those “returning from residential Juvenile Justice Programs,” such as students “convicted of a serious crime such as: rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or firearm related,” and those whose behavior off campus would qualify them for expulsion.

Runcie started the program in 2013, reports Sperry, and, in the following year, worked with county prosecutors and judges to release 325 jailed young people to schools within the district. The number of incarcerated students climbed each year until the number was 967 in 2016, the last year for which data was available. Statistics reveal that Broward school-age students, who had been arrested between 2014-2016, had been charged with offenses such as murder, manslaughter, armed robbery, sex offenses, weapons violations, drug charges, and other felonies.

The Broward County school system’s Equity and Academic Attainment (EAA) office, directed by David Watkins, oversees these programs.

THE EAA Master Plan states it “addresses the needs of our most fragile students. Many of our students are Department of Juvenile Justice  (DJJ) involved and/or at-risk.”

In its document titled “Eliminating the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Broward County schools says it is “heavily invested, in partnership with a number of community organizations,” including the NAACP, in keeping students out of the justice system. Under Runcie, the school district abides by what it says is “national research and data on school discipline” that is “clear on a number of issues.”

The school district goes on to say the “clear” data show, “Exclusionary practices such as out-of-school suspension, expulsion and school related arrests are detrimental to student success in school and in life.”

“School districts have a legal, and more importantly, a moral responsibility to eliminating disproportional representation of minorities, student with disabilities, and LGBT students in discipline,” Broward County schools adds.

U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, however, chairman of the board for the Center for New Black Leadership, told Breitbart News that the literature on racial disparities in disciplinary rates often omits key data.

“Much of the literature that focuses on racial disparities in disciplinary rates recites statistics showing that black and Hispanic students are 3—4 times more likely to be suspended than white and Asian students,” he explains. “But the same literature often leaves out data showing that black and Hispanic students are far more likely than white and Asian students to commit the types of offenses resulting in suspension.”

“There is some evidence that black students are more likely to be suspended than white students for some of the same infractions,” he adds. “But a closer look at the data shows that’s not necessarily due to discrimination, but rather, the disciplinary policies of specific schools or school administrators. Some black school administrators at majority-black schools punish black students more harshly than white school administrators punish white (or black) students at majority white schools.”

It is now well-documented that law enforcement in Broward County did not act on reports of accused Parkland shooter Cruz’s prior violence and threats. Additionally, as the Associated Press observes, documents reveal the concerns of school officials about Cruz’s mental status were so severe that it was recommended he be “forcibly committed.”

“A commitment under the law would have made it more difficult if not impossible for Nikolas Cruz to obtain a gun legally,” AP reports, adding:

Such an involuntary commitment would also have been a high obstacle if not a complete barrier to legally obtaining a firearm, such as the AR-15 type rifle used in the Stoneman Douglas massacre on Feb. 14, authorities say.

David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said that an involuntary commitment would have been a huge red flag had Cruz attempted to buy a firearm legally.

“If he had lied, hopefully the verification of the form would have pulled up the commitment paperwork,” Weinstein said.

Breitbart News reached out to Broward County Public Schools for comment on the AP story’s report of failure to follow up on school officials’ recommendations that Cruz be committed because of his violent threats and behavior.

“We are unable to provide comment on the AP story,” Nadine Drew of the Public Information Office responded. “Because your inquiry falls under the rules protecting student information and records, we are also unable to provide or clarify information regarding behavior infractions or consequences that are part of Nikolas Cruz’s educational record.”

The school district adds it “has engaged an independent review of Nikolas Cruz’s educational record and the academic, social and emotional services he received during the time he was enrolled in Broward County Public Schools. The review has begun and will conclude by June 2018.”


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