Last week Governor Ralph Northam signed two bills limiting the suspensions Virginia schools can mete out to maintain student discipline. One bill bars school divisions from suspending students in pre-K through 3rd grade for more than three days; the other reduces the cap for long-term suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days.
“There is power in every child,” the governor said, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We want to keep our children in school.”
The justification cited for the changes, as Bacon’s Rebellion readers will immediately surmise, is not based upon research showing that reduced suspensions are more effective means of discipline, they are based upon the disproportionate percentage of black students referred to law enforcement. The T-D frames the issue as part of the larger movement to combat the so-called “school to prison pipeline.”
Data released by the U.S. Department of Education in April show that while black students made up 15 percent of national enrollment in 2015-16, they accounted for 31 percent of students referred to law enforcement or arrested that year.
Every Richmond-area school division posted law enforcement referral rates at or worse than the national average.
I don’t have a big beef with the bills that Northam signed. You’d have to be a really bad-ass 3rd grader to warrant suspension for more than three days. And a year-long suspension for, say, a 10th grader, amounts to an expulsion for all practical purposes. I’m more concerned about how the issue is framed to justify a more therapeutic approach to school discipline, enacted by local school boards, that makes disruptive students the primary focus of compassion and concern.
“Exclusionary discipline is myopic and harmful. We cannot continue to use access to education as a punishment for student conduct and expect positive results from either students or schools,” said Amy Woolard, a staff attorney and policy coordinator at Virginia’s Legal Aid Justice Center upon the release of a report she authored in October.
Do social justice warriors like Woolard care about the kids whose educations are disrupted by misbehaving students? Let’s re-frame the issue: What percentage of minority kids attend classes where disciplinary issues detract from the teacher’s ability to teach? What percentage of minority kids find, as a result, that they gain less complete mastery of the subject matter — as measured by SOLs and other standardized test scores — than they would have if the disciplinary problems had been removed? If the education of a disproportionate percentage of minority kids is stunted due to the misbehavior of their peers, isn’t that a form of racism, too?
We don’t know the answers because nobody asks the questions and nobody bothers to measure. When nobody measures, there’s no injustice for the SJWs to decry. When there’s no injustice to decry for SJWs to decry, the real victims remain invisible. Where Northam says, “We want to keep our children in school,” I say, “We want the children in school to learn.”There are currently no comments highlighted.