Betsy DeVos' commission: Get rid of protections for colored students to make schools safer
After the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a white student killed 17 people, the federal government convened a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That commission was charged with finding “meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school.”
Now, the Commission has issued its report, and one of its key recommendations is to roll back Obama-era protections against students of color being unfairly disciplined. None of the major recommendations of the Commission deal with making guns less available generally, even though every bit of evidence shows that countries with stricter gun control laws see far fewer mass shootings. Instead, the report provided guidelines for arming school personnel and contains a perverse insistence that schools are made safer when they return to an era where students of color disproportionately disciplined.
Under Obama, the Department of Education found that students of color were disciplined at a far higher rate than their white peers, often for minor infractions. It starts in preschool, where black preschoolers were found to be suspended at over three times the rate of white pre-school students. And it continues in K-12 education, where black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as their white peers.
The Obama-era guidelines beefed up data collection to help identify those types of disparities, and it also recommended schools treat suspension and expulsion as a last resort rather than the first action.
But DeVos wants to get rid of the rules. In theory, it is because the Parkland school shooter had committed a number of infractions before the shooting yet still managed to carry out the shooting. The unspoken implication is that the Stoneman Douglas school felt so restricted by the Obama guidelines that they didn’t take appropriate action against a student who became a school shooter. This ignores the fact that the gunman, Nicolas Cruz, had been expelled from the school. It also ignores the fact that the Cruz was white. Finally, the recommendations ignore that, although data is difficult to track, it appears that the majority of mass shootings are committed by white men.
The Trump administration and DeVos aren’t genuinely interested in making schools safer. They’re interested in propping up the power of the NRA, a major player in getting Trump elected, and in rolling back Obama-era civil rights protections for many groups, including victims of campus sexual assault and trans students. This report is yet another cynical way for the administration to enshrine discrimination into law.
Published with permission of The American Independent. Attribution: Lisa Needham.