JULY 25, 2011
On the heels of a heavily publicized report claiming that minorities are disproportionately suspended in public schools, the Obama Administration has launched a special program to discourage the expulsion of delinquents in order to eradicate a “school-to-prison pipeline.”The federal government doesn’t actually have the power to dictate discipline policies in public schools, but this sort of initiative keeps with the administration’s big government crusade to control all aspects of American life. Obama’s attorney general and education secretary announced the collaborative effort this month to address a worrisome “school-to-prison pipeline” created by disciplinary policies and practices they assert push minority students out of school and into the justice system.Specifically, the new Department of Justice and Department of Education project (Supportive School Discipline Initiative) directs public school districts nationwide to ensure disciplinary policies are administered in a “non-discriminatory manner” and that they “comply with the nation’s civil rights laws.” Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the new multi-agency effort while meeting with a federal council that works to educate at-risk youth.They were motivated by a recent study that reveals a majority of Texas school children are suspended or expelled between 7th grade and high school and that blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be punished for lesser offenses than their white counterparts. African-Americans are removed from the classroom for disciplinary reasons at an especially disproportionately high rate, according to the study which was conducted by the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit that helps state officials shape public policy.Citing the report, Duncan says he’s “concerned about the rising rates and disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools.” He wants to ensure that the country’s public educational system is a “doorway to opportunity” rather than a “point of entry to our criminal justice system.” Holder, whose agency has launched several innovative civil rights initiatives, is confident that this one will assure school discipline policies are “enforced fairly” to promote “positive disciplinary options” that keep kids in school.Undoubtedly, the plan was crafted with the help of certain influential civil rights groups that have long called on the federal government to reduce “inappropriate and exclusionary discipline techniques” in public schools. One of them, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, claims research has shown that “exclusionary discipline policies lead to racial disparities, undermine students’ academic achievement and make it more likely that they will end up behind bars.”
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