Betsy DeVos to roll back school racial discrimination rules enacted by the Obama administration
According to NPR, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is set to eliminate a guidance provided by the Obama administration which was designed to reduce racial discrimination in the disciplinary action taken by schools.
Shortly after the passage of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act, a lot of schools added “zero-tolerance” policies and more police, especially at lower income and predominantly Black/brown schools. In 2014, the Obama administration became concerned that school discipline skewed towards what it termed “discriminatory discipline,” and promoted alternatives to suspension, expulsion, and other methods that removed students from school. It also looked into school districts that were suspending an undue amount of Black and brown students.
But after heading the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was created by Donald Trump after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, DeVos released a report saying that the Obama era policies on discipline have made schools afraid to address unruly students or violent incidents. DeVos had indicated early on that gun control would not be a focus of her team’s investigations. Instead, the commission’s recommended actions support the Trump administration’s desire to do away with most everything that can be associated or attributed to the former President Barack Obama.
Statistics have shown over the years that being suspended, expelled, or arrested at school is associated with higher dropout rates and negative lifelong effects. These negative consequences have fallen much more on the shoulders of students of color, regardless of their actual behavior.
After the guidance from the Obama administration was instated, 50 of the largest school districts in America began instituting discipline reforms and half of the country revised laws in an attempt to curb suspensions and expulsions. According to a recent study by Child Trends, it seemed to be working particularly well for Latinx students, but the rates for Black children still far exceeded the rest of the country at around twice the average. Special education students also remained at-risk for suspension, expelling, or arrest.
Even though DeVos’ commission did not place a large focus on gun safety, it did address it by recommending an expansion of “extreme risk protection orders,” which allows for household members or police to seek the removal of firearms from a mentally disturbed person. The commission also heard arguments from people like Judy Kidd of the North Carolina Classroom Teachers Association, who told them, “Daily fights, concealed weapons and teachers assaulted are being ignored to reduce the number of incidents reported. This is unacceptable.”
Views like these seem to almost always find their way into this White House, while views like those of Nia Arrington, an 18-year-old student in Pittsburgh who successfully fought against arming school safety officers, are often ignored. Arrington told NPR, “I don’t think when these people talk about keeping students safe that they have all students in mind… They don’t think about the harsh reality some students may have faced with gun violence. A lot of students have been traumatized by guns in this country — and by the hands of the police.”