Mainstream media may have hoped the school safety commission formed by President Trump after the Parkland, Fla., school shootings in February would at least get stuck on the question of whether to recommend gun control.
Not only did the administration “abandon that focus” after its “brief flirtation with gun control,” it now plans to call for rolling back Obama-era policies that sought to ensure minority children were not unfairly disciplined as a result of race.
“Almost immediately, the commission turned away from guns and instead scrutinized the Obama administration’s school discipline policies, though none of the most high-profile shootings were perpetrated by black students,” wrote Erica L. Green and Katie Benner of the New York Times under the headline: “Trump Officials Plan to Rescind Obama-Era School Discipline Policies.”
This was part “of a broader effort to reject the previous administration’s race-conscious education efforts, which have included siding with Asian students suing Harvard to end affirmative action and delaying an Obama-era rule to prevent disproportionate numbers of minority children from being funneled into special education classes,” Green and Benner wrote.
The story did not explain how siding with Asian students against discrimination at Harvard became part of rejecting race-conscious education efforts.
The documents supporting the change “focus significantly on race and promote the idea that the federal crackdown on potentially discriminatory practices has made schools more dangerous.”
A former Justice Department lawyer who worked on the Obama rules told the Times that “[s]afety is a red herring intended to raise fears about our own children.”
The move narrows a legal avenue for the federal government to “combat discriminating in the nation’s schools by rejecting ‘disparate impact theory,’ which holds that seemingly neutral policies can harm certain racial groups,” Green and Benner wrote. “Instead, the panel will hold, the administration will act on evidence of explicit discrimination, not just statistics that indicate one group may be failing or falling behind.”
CNN seemed equally troubled by the development in the lead of its story: “The Department of Education is poised to rescind Obama-era policies that sought to ensure minority students are not unfairly disciplined in schools, an effort the Trump administration believes will alleviate school-related violence,” wrote Devan Cole of CNN under the headline, “NYT: Education Department poised to rescind Obama-era school discipline policies.”
Referring to the Times, Cole wrote: “ … the Obama-era policies gave students guidance on how to discipline students in a ‘non-discriminatory manner’ and were implemented after ‘strong evidence’ showed that minority students were being punished more frequently and in harsher ways than their white counterparts for the same or lesser offenses …”
The policies don’t seem to have made much difference, according to a story in June on HuffPost. In fact, suspensions of minority students compared to white students remained about the same, and complaints about racism in discipline have gone from 208 in 2015 to 265 in 2016 back down to 216 in 2017.
“Several education experts told HuffPost that the dip in discipline complaints is likely a result of natural ebb and flow, devoid of meaningful implications,” wrote Rebecca Klein in “Education Dept. Received Hundreds of Complaints Last Year About Racist School Discipline,” which ran June 12. “Others speculated that the Trump administration has had a silencing effort on people who might otherwise have filed a complaint.”
The Times closed its story saying, “On how the Obama-era discipline guidelines might have to the Parkland shooting, the draft report was silent.”
But the concern has been raised – by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and others, that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was part of the Promise program, which “was meant to avoid referring student to police after non-violent offenses.” Broward County, Fla., officials first denied he was part of the program. But an NPR reporter found out otherwise, and the system changed its story.