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'Racial Disparities' — Why the Justice Department Will Now Monitor Discipline In U.S. Schools

Nevermind boys versus girls - The DOJ and DOE want schools to adjust their discipline protocols based on race.

The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights co-published a letter Wednesday to address the "nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline."

The letter explains the DOJ "may initiate investigations based on public reports of racial disparities in student discipline combined with other information, or as part of their regular compliance monitoring activities."

Nevermind boys versus girls - The DOJ and DOE want schools to adjust their discipline protocols based on race. (Image source: Shutterstock)

But as some pundits point out, children with differing home lives will behave in equal manners when presented with the same environment, regardless of race or gender. Roger Clegg from National Review online had this to say:

The fact of the matter is that not all racial and ethnic groups (not to mention boys versus girls) are equally likely to be discipline problems. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I will just note here what is probably the main one. There are huge differences among groups in out-of-wedlock birthrates — more than seven out of ten African Americans, six out of ten Native Americans, and five out of ten Hispanics, versus fewer than three out of ten non-Hispanic whites and two out of ten Asian Americans are born to unmarried women — and children growing up in homes without fathers are much more likely to get into all kinds of trouble, including at school.

The joint DOJ/DOE letter references unpublished data from the Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-2012 school year, stating the CRDC "has demonstrated that students of certain racial or ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more than their peers."

The letter says African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended. While African-American students represent 15% of students in the CDRC study, they make up 35% of students suspended once, 44% suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled. Further, more than 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.

Eric Holder's DOJ will be watching schools for the "disparate impact" of their discipline practices. (Getty Images)

Holder's Department letter is hardly clear on the fix, though. Recommending a three-part inquiry process, the letter urges schools to ask questions such as "Are there comparably effective alternative policies or practices that would meet the stated educational goal with less of a burden or adverse impact on the disproportionately affected racial group pretext for discrimination?"


Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.


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