The war on standards in Twin Cities schools

I hope you read Katherine Kersten’s article, presented yesterday by Scott, about the impact of “equity” in disciplinary action on schools in the Twin Cities. As Kersten explains, “equity” in this context isn’t about fairness — that is, the same rules for everyone. Rather, it means that “if one group’s outcomes on social measures are not identical to all of the others’, the cause is presumed to be discrimination and the proper response to be government policies designed to ensure equal statistical results.”

Thus, the fact that in 2010-11, consistent with national averages, 15 percent of black students in the St. Paul school district were suspended at least once — five times more than white students — means that standards must be lowered. For example, the district dropped “continual willful disobedience” as a suspendable offense. As a result, says Kersten, “often, kids who misbehave chat briefly with a ‘behavior specialist’ or are simply moved to another classroom or school where they are likely to misbehave again.”

This policy has, of course, produced rampant and serious misbehavior. According to Kersten, “increasingly, some St. Paul Public Schools resemble a war zone” to the point that Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has branded the trend of violence “a public health crisis.” Teachers have threatened to strike over the dangers they face, and their safety was a pivotal issue in recently concluded contract negotiations. “We are afraid,” one told the Pioneer Press.

Aaron Benner, a veteran elementary school teacher who happens to be black, described the breakdown:

In October 2015, Benner — writing in the Pioneer Press — stated that he witnessed “far worse” behaviors during the 2014-15 school year. “On a daily basis, I saw students cussing at their teachers, running out of class, yelling and screaming in the halls, and fighting.” School officials often failed to follow up when he referred kids for misbehavior, he said. “I have since learned that this tactic is widely used throughout the district to keep the numbers of referrals and suspensions low,” he added.

Benner now works at a charter school.

Smart move.

Since last Fall, things, if anything, have gotten worse:

The 2015-16 school year has seen riots or brawls at Como Park, Central, Humboldt and Harding high schools — including six fights in three days at Como Park. On March 9, a Como Park teacher was attacked by two students, suffered a concussion and needed staples to close a head wound.

News reports paint a grim picture at these and other district schools — students fighting in a stairwell as staff struggle to hold a door to prevent dozens more from joining the brawl, uncontrolled packs of kids roaming the halls and “classroom invasions” by students seeking to settle private scores. Teachers say fights often aren’t one-on-one but involve roving bands of kids ganging up to attack individuals.

No one will be surprised to learn that the Obama administration has pushed for “equity” in school discipline. In fact, as Kersten reminds us, Team Obama has made it a centerpiece of education policy.

It claims that the disproportionately high rate of disciplinary action towards black students is the product of racial discrimination (never mind that, per Jim Scanlan, lower standards almost certainly increase the disparity). However, white male students are disciplined at a higher rate than their Asian Pacific counterparts. Does this mean that teachers are prejudiced against white boys?

Of course not. It means that white male students misbehave more frequently.

Similarly, higher rates of indiscipline explain the relatively high frequency of misconduct by black students. Kersten points to a 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice that found the racial gap in suspensions is “completely accounted for by a measure of the prior problem behavior of the student.”

The same indiscipline explains why, for example, young black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate of white and Hispanics of the same ages combined. It also explains why the left’s war on standards extends to the criminal justice system.

What is the source of the indiscipline? I agree with Kersten that a primary reason is likely dramatic differences in family structure. Nationally, she notes, 71 percent of black children are born out of wedlock — with the rate much higher in many inner cities — while the rate for whites is 29 percent. Research reveals that children from fatherless families are far more likely than others to engage in many kinds of antisocial behavior.

There’s your inequity.

Whatever the cause, the price of rampant misbehavior in schools is paid for, disproportionately, by blacks. It is mainly black students whose educational opportunities — the ticket to a better life — are thwarted when the environment in predominantly black schools comes to resemble a “war zone.”

Students in predominantly white, mostly peaceful schools will continue for the most part to hold their own, while students in predominantly black ones will fall further behind. The achievement gap will likely increase and the income gap will likely widen.

Seizing upon these gaps, the left will lodge ever more vehement attacks on alleged American racism and will demand more power for the government and more “equity” based programs.

The war on standards will pull us all down eventually. Right now, it’s mainly pulling down blacks.