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Obama’s Deadly School Discipline Policy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Michael Sohn

There are many news stories squandered by CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and even FOX News. Many of these stories are easy to find. However, the narrative-driven media are too busy trying to topple the Trump administration and undo the 2016 election. So while all the invented drama of the impeachment hearings are clogging up the 24-hour news cycles, a comprehensive study on school shootings published by the U.S. Secret Service never sees the light of day.


Why? Because the study discovered some inconvenient truths for gun control advocates, specifically how to reduce and prevent school shootings. What is not surprising is that the study found that most students who committed these deadly shootings had a history of disciplinary trouble--their behavior disturbed others but was never reported. It also determined school shootings “are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student gets disgruntled,” and “the majority of these incidents are preventable.” In other words, the system was blinking red, and little was done about it. The report’s conclusion says that schools may need to think differently about school discipline and intervention.

Why does this matter? Remember in 2011, when Barack Obama and his Department of Education were on a socially engineered crusade to artificially manufacture public school safety through race politics? Recall they launched their Supportive School Discipline Initiative that was championed as a national model for discipline reform. Yet, this misguided intervention into local school policy is why the Department of Education should be shut down. Through forced compliance to receive federal funding, this junk science kept many miscreants in the school instead of finding an alternative placement somewhere else and an effective tracking system. States also followed by revising their laws to reduce suspensions and expulsions.


This high-minded, one-size-fits-all liberal policy, like most other liberal policies, didn’t take into account the potential unintended consequences of their nitwitted idea. Instead, it got students unnecessarily hurt, killed, and left countless communities traumatized in the aftermath of mass school slaughters because they were worried about the civil rights of disruptive students. They had, however, no concern for students who had a civil right to go to school and learn without being mowed down in a classroom.

Obama and his Department of Education ignored the real-life experiences of teachers and school administrators who knew that keeping a student who should be expelled or at least suspended from school for extremely outrageous behavior was not a novel concept, but a dangerous one. Take for example a teacher in a North Carolina school who said that the daily fights, concealed weapons, and assaults on faculty were ignored simply to reduce the number of incidents reported. Or the father of a student killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida who called these polices cancerous and that these lenient, P.C. policies led to the non-reporting of potential school killers. Maybe like the Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz.


Cruz had a history that was completely ignored because of the Obama-era policy that allowed him to fly off the radar screen and to go unmonitored. He was referred to what was called the PROMISE Program in middle school for his repeated threatening behavior, but there was no record of his receiving services. This program mirrored Obama’s forced lenient compliance requirements on school discipline in order to receive federal funding.

President Trump commissioned a comprehensive study after the Parkland School shooting on the effect of the Obama-era lax school discipline policy. It found that, among other things, a “recurring narrative that teachers in the classroom and students in hallways were afraid that students who had a history of antisocial or violent behavior were left unchecked.”

Thankfully Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced in December of 2018 that she rescinded the dangerous Obama-era policy on lenient school discipline requirements. That was a good start. But the problem is that reversing policy takes time to take root. The liberal behavior of schools will have administrators continuing on this path. It is how human behavior works, not to mention the liberal nature of local public school officials. Unfortunately, it will take more mass school shootings before the public demands tactics and policies that actually work.


Liberals are big on amassing government databases of private citizens information like gun ownership. They support gun registration lists with public access to such records. They support so-called red flag laws that allow for the confiscation of a person's firearms without due process, but when it comes to the protection of kids in schools, they are worried about their civil rights? They are afraid that school records on discipline could follow a student and may end them up in the criminal justice system when that is exactly where someone like Cruz belonged.

Here is how we keep kids safe in school. We need at least a state database of disruptive students, a red flag system so that when these troublemakers move on to other schools, law enforcement and the new school can find out who they are getting. Schools need to return to a zero policy on student disruptive behavior and a return to using arrest, suspension, and expulsion for behavior control, at least in extreme cases. When schools hear about a “best practice,” they should run in the other direction. These are nothing more than liberal socially engineered experiments developed in university ivory towers with no empirical proof or peer review that they actually work. And lastly, keep the U.S. Department of Education out of the business of ordering school policy. The safety of our children and faculty is worth it.


Sheriff David Clarke Jr. is former Sheriff of Milwaukee Co, Wisconsin, President of AmericasSheriff LLC, advisory Board member for We Build the Wall.us, author of the book Cop Under Fire: Beyond Hashtags of Race Crime and Politics for a Better America. To learn more visit www.americassheriff.com

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