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Education Department eyes racial quotas in school discipline, expert warns

The U.S. Department of Education under the new Biden administration may reinstate an Obama-era guideline that incentivizes school districts to use racial quotas in school discipline, according to an education watchdog.

Washington D.C. attorney and education expert Hans Bader recently sounded the alarm on the development, writing in Liberty Unyielding that during a May event co-hosted by the Education and Justice departments that speakers signaled plans to bring back Obama administration guidelines that encouraged administrators to discipline racial student groups at the same rate.

“Speakers at the event repeatedly treated higher minority discipline rates as being the fault of school officials, rather than the misbehaving kids,” according to Bader.

In an interview with The College Fix, Bader explained how such guidelines might play out on campus.

“If you have a racial quota on discipline, it means that sometimes white students will be suspended for things that black students are not suspended for,” Bader said.

For example, “if a black student is insubordinate to a teacher, he gets a little note home to his parents, and the white student who does it is suspended,” he said.

Bader also speculated that schools looking to comply with these guidelines would do so quietly in order to not draw public attention.

“You’re not going to know that it’s going on when it’s happening because it’s veiled and that’s part of the problem, just figuring out where this is going on,” Bader told The Fix.

Bader, writing in Liberty Unyielding, noted that the Biden administration is looking to not only reissue Obama’s guidelines for racial quotas in school discipline, which the Trump administration had rescinded in 2018, but go one step further.

Officials may “also require schools to track students with multiple minority characteristics (such as transgender black youth) to see if any such subcategory has a worse statistical outcome, based on a concept known as ‘intersectionality,’” Bader wrote, citing speaker comments at the mid-May Education Department event.

While not an explicit requirement of school districts, officials who chose not to comply with the guidelines, if they are re-issued, would be subject to possible disruption of federal funds or an investigation by the Department of Education.

Asked for comment by The College Fix, an Education Department official said such quotas do not exist, nor have they ever existed, and would not be used in order to evaluate a school district’s funding needs.

Obama’s 2014 guidance on the matter stated racial discipline data collected from school districts would be used to discover if greater racial discrimination could be happening:

The Departments recognize that disparities in student discipline rates in a school or district may be caused by a range of factors. However, research suggests that the substantial racial disparities of the kind reflected in the CRDC data are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.7 Although statistical and quantitative data would not end an inquiry under Title IV or Title VI, significant and unexplained racial disparities in student discipline give rise to concerns that schools may be engaging in racial discrimination that violates the Federal civil rights laws.

Bader, however, flagged other parts of the guidance that allude to incentivizing quotas.

It states that “research suggests that the substantial racial disparities of the kind reflected in the CRDC data are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.”

“That passage encourages [the Office for Civil Rights] to investigate based on racial differences in discipline rates, based on the assumption that they are suspicious, even though research does, in fact, show that substantial racial disparities are explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color,” Bader told The Fix.

“Faced with the threat of such investigations, which are costly and embarrassing and can lead to a school district’s federal funds being cut off, school districts have an incentive to covertly adopt double standards of behavior for students of different races, to reduce differences in discipline rates.”

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About the Author
Jackson Walker -- University of Wisconsin Madison