Prodded by feds, Minneapolis will consider race in school suspensions

The groundbreaking move follows negotiations with the federal government, which sent out a letter to school systems warning that disciplinary patterns with “disparate impact” were under suspicion. There is of course a reformist cast for rethinking some harsh aspects of school discipline systems, zero tolerance policies being one, but not the only, example. Such reforms might well have the effect of narrowing disproportionately high rates of discipline for students in some minority groups. But the Minneapolis system’s move (apparently encouraged by Washington) to consider race explicitly in the suspension process, with minority kids getting an additional layer of review, raises the likelihood of a challenge under the Constitution’s equal protection clause, as does the setting of an enforceable compliance objective of achieving identical suspension rates from one demographic group to the next independent of whether misconduct rates are identical. [Tom Corbett/Star Tribune, Hans Bader/CEI, John Steele Gordon/Commentary, RiShawn Biddle/Dropout Nation (a different view)].


  • Thanks for the link, and I agree with most of what you say above.

    But disagree with this sentence:

    “Such reforms [to harsh discipline] might well have the effect of narrowing disproportionately high rates of discipline for students in some minority groups.”

    They won’t. Such reforms, like curbing zero-tolerance rules, have already been tried extensively, and such reforms actually increase the ratio of suspended black students to white students, until the schools mask that effect either through fudging the numbers (off-the-books suspensions of black kids), or engaging in outright racial favoritism towards black kids.

    The Los Angeles Times’ Terese Watanabe reported on how the Los Angeles schools, under pressure to reduce black suspensions, suspended misbehaving black kids “off the books” to hide those suspensions.

    Investors Business Daily says violent black kids are going unsuspended in California schools to avoid racially “disparate impact.” Edmund Janko once wrote in City Journal about how he showed racial favoritism towards black kids by giving them a mere warning for things that would get a white kid suspended, in order to appease Federal civil-rights officials.

    If you define “disproportionality” in terms of ratios of blacks to whites suspended (as the Education Department apparently does), getting rid of stupid zero-tolerance policies actually INCREASES disparate impact, as lawyer/statistician James P. Scanlan has explained over and over again, citing actual data from schools in Denver, California, Maryland, etc. (as he has explained in the Recorder, the Baltimore Sun, etc.)

    Racial disparities in discipline are the product of differences in rates of misbehavior, not racism by school officials. Misconduct rates are not the same for different races. A 2014 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice by criminologists like John Paul Wright found that racial disparities in student discipline result from more frequent misbehavior by blacks, not racism. The study, entitled “Prior Problem Behavior Accounts for the Racial Gap in School Suspensions,” concluded that higher black suspension rates are “completely accounted for” by students’ own behavior.

    Any suggestion of anti-black racism in Minneapolis is further undermined by the fact that the Minneapolis schools superintendant is black, and minorities are not underrepresented in the schools’ workforce compared to the qualified labor pool.

  • I can’t read this and not think about the Pittsburgh City Councilwoman who was complaining about Blacks making up about 80% of the arrests in her district. When it was pointed out to her that 80% of the people in her district were Black, she said that she didn’t care and that the Police should arrest more Whites anyway.

  • this is too convulsively funny for words. the Social Justice Warriors are taking on the collection of Klansmen and Nazis who fill the Minn teachers union and the school administrators.

  • If the object is to make sure that there is equality of punishment among students of different backgrounds, why not just suspend some extra students for being White or Chinese?


  • How to prove to all but fanatics that racially-unequal results are from racially-unequal behavior trends, rather than bias?

    Ten years from now, when surveillance cameras are routine, bias challenges could be resolved by random selection of cases, both where serious discipline is applied and where it is not. Before an arbitration panel gets to examine the video record of incidents, software (not invented yet) would alter the appearance and voices of participants to disguise their race and ethnicity. The panelists would record their recommended disposition of each case; only after they had gone on the record, would they get to know the races involved and compare their decisions with those taken for real by the school administrators.

    In the meantime, some of the most passionate denunciation of suspensions and expulsions of Black students could be addressed by “in-school suspensions” and reform schools. Disruptive kids would still have a chance at an education, rather than being left to hang out on street corners.

  • “software (not invented yet) would alter the appearance and voices of participants to disguise their race and ethnicity.”

    Actually, the software to do this already exists. It is used all the time in movies and TV shows that combine live actors with CG effects.

  • […] country as more cities and states fall into line with the new Department of Justice policy. Earlier here, and a somewhat different view from Coyote, who writes: “By the way, in today’s legal […]

  • A wise man once said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

  • The problem, ultimately, is that kids are not fools. What do these idiot administrators do when a victim of this facially discriminatory policy decides to call them out when the suspension is being handed down? Are they going to flat-out lie to the kid? Are they going to admit it?

  • […] Leef on federal pressures behind Minneapolis school-discipline initiative [Forbes, earlier here and […]