Schools should be free to discipline all students when their behavior demands it, not when the color of their skin allows for it. A new government panel is working to help change that.
President Obama’s July 26 executive order, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, calls for “a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools” and aims to correct the fact that “over a third of African American students do not graduate from high school on time with a regular high school diploma.”
The executive order created the “President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans” to help ensure that students of all races are disciplined equally in schools, regardless of their behavior.
There’s no evidence that individual African-American students are disciplined any differently than their classmates of other races, but liberals argue that black students are at a disadvantage because they are disciplined more often than their peers.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement that the new initiative would correct problems that had long been ignored:
For too long, the experience of far too many African American students in far too many places has been marred by school districts whose ongoing practices have failed our children. . . . If fully implemented, we are convinced the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will make sure school discipline is fair, special education assignments are based on needs not race, and all of our nation’s most motivated students have fair access to advanced placement classes.
The new committee’s conservative critics disagree. “What this means is that whites and Asians will get suspended for things that blacks don’t get suspended for,” Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told The Daily Caller.
The White House report states that African American students lag behind because they “lack equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes, and they disproportionately experience school discipline.” But David Rettig, head of the National Character Education Foundation, told The Daily Caller that school discipline practices can simply reflect local crime reports: “Outside the walls of the school, how many of these kids are coming from not just dysfunctional homes, but homes that are not supportive of children?”
Roger Clegg, the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, wrote in a blog post at NationalReview.com, “Too bad that the president has chosen to set up a new bureaucracy with a focus on one particular racial group, to the exclusion of all others.”