In the name of halting the “school to prison pipeline,” liberal legislators propose to take away an option — charging kids with disorderly conduct — that will make it more difficult to maintain discipline in school.
Bills filed by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, and Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would exempt students from a disorderly conduct charge if they misbehave at school or on a school bus. “Our students cannot learn if they’re being put out of school because of behavioral issues,” McClellan said last week at a Legislative Black Caucus press conference.
Reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, there were more than 7,000 disorderly conduct complaints made against Virginia children, according to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Three in five complaints came from police, with others coming from school resource officers and school officials.
Nearly two in three complaints from school officials or school resource officers were filed against black students – far greater than the percentage of black students in Virginia schools. The total number of complaints – not just disorderly conduct – made from school officials rose 7 percent between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 school years, according to DJJ.
“We’ve seen a criminalization of conduct that really should have been corrected,” Bourne said.
Researchers at Virginia Tech found in 2017 that black students account for 23 percent of Virginia’s student population, but half the referrals to juvenile courts from schools.
“That’s an unacceptable outcome,” Mullin said of the disproportionate number of black students referred to police.
Bacon’s bottom line: The justification for curtailing schools’ disciplinary options is based on the statistical discrepancy between the percentage of black students in schools and the percentage of black kids being punished. No one has cited instances in which disciplinary actions were unreasonable or racially motivated. No one has presented evidence to dispute the fact that black kids are more likely to be raised in poverty, less likely to have a father in the household, more likely to be subject to domestic neglect or abuse, and are more likely to “act out” in school as a result. No one has contested the fact that the reason that more black kids are disciplined is that more are committing infractions.
Conversely, liberal legislators have evinced no concern whatsoever about the kids whose educations are disrupted by misbehavior. No one has wondered if the victims of disrupted classrooms are disproportionately black, as they undoubtedly are. No one has made the connection between declining classroom discipline and declining SOL scores, especially among black students, over the past two years.
Furthermore, no one has remarked upon the fact that disorderly behavior has increased even as schools are under tremendous pressure to reduce the number of referrals to police and have replaced traditional policies with “restorative justice” practices. It seems to have occurred to no one that let’s-all-hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya disciplinary policies actually embolden the hard cases who perceive correctly that misbehavior incurs less risk of meaningful punishment.
By taking away a tool for dealing with the worst offenders, liberal legislators would make the job of school teachers and administrators all the more difficult. The biggest losers will be the black kids who come to school wanting to learn.