The guidelines tell school districts that any discipline policy that results in an "adverse impact on students of a particular race as compared with students of other races" is problematic. The school district must prove that the policy is "necessary to meet an important educational goal" and that there are not "comparably effective alternative policies or practices that would meet the school's stated educational goals."
In the D.C. area study, for example, minority students were far more likely to be suspended for "insubordination" than whites. The easiest way to fix the statistical disparity would be for school districts to eliminate insubordination as an infraction punishable by suspension. But whom would such a change benefit?
Students who refuse to follow the rules and behave disrespectfully to teachers and administrators would learn they could get away with it with no consequences, setting them up for future failure in the work world. Students who behaved would find themselves in unruly classrooms, and teachers would find their authority and ability to teach undermined.
Meanwhile, the real culprit for racial differences in disciplinary problems among students would go unexamined. More than 70 percent of black babies are born to single moms, as are about 60 percent of Native Americans and 50 percent of Hispanics, but less than 30 percent of whites and 20 percent of Asians. Children who grow up in fatherless homes are exponentially more likely to face school suspension or engage in early criminal behavior.
According to the Fatherhood Coalition, fatherless teens are three times more likely to be suspended from school and fatherless teen boys are 10 times more likely to become chronic juvenile offenders than those raised in homes with two parents. Forcing school districts to weaken disciplinary policies or set racial quotas in implementing them serves no one. And those who would suffer the most would likely be underachieving minority students stuck in undisciplined classrooms.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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