Education Opinion

Out-of-Control Schools

By Walt Gardner — December 27, 2017 1 min read
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If there’s one thing parents of all races and backgrounds fear, it’s sending their children to unsafe schools. That’s why it’s so disturbing to read about attacks on teachers (“Obama’s lax discipline policies made school dangerous,” The New York Post, Dec. 23).

When former President Barack Obama pressured educators in January 2014 to make it harder to suspend or expel students, schools soon reported more than 160,000 physical attacks on teachers. Yet the students involved were expelled in fewer than 130,000 cases, according to federal data. For example, in New York City, home of the nation’s largest school system, school assaults rose 48 percent in 2015-16, according to the State Education Department. But in the same period, there was a sharp drop in suspensions. We can argue that correlation is not causation, but I say there is a direct connection between factors.

When teachers feel threatened, they can’t do their job, and students who want to learn are held hostage by their classmates who belong in jail (“Do L.A. Unified’s daily random searches keep students safe, or do they go too far? Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26). But because blacks tend to be suspended at a higher rate than others for the same behavior, it’s become a highly controversial issue, resulting in school officials reluctant to do what is necessary out of fear of being sued.

I don’t buy the argument that teachers are biased against black students. In fact, I think they’ve become so sensitized about being accused of prejudice that they tend to overlook behavior that in the past would have resulted in automatic suspension or expulsion. Teachers who refuse to tolerate disruptive behavior often receive unsatisfactory ratings by their principals (“Unearned Diplomas,” The Weekly Standard, Dec. 22). Students of any race who are incorrigible need to be immediately separated from their peers and placed in special programs where they do not interfere with the safety and learning of others. But I doubt that will happen because principals want to look good. It’s a national scandal.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.