Sunday, August 19, 2018

Enforcing Classroom Disorder: Trump Has Not Called Off Obama's War on School Discipline

Executive Summary

In January 2014, the Obama administration issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on school discipline. The DCL—prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—claimed that: (1) school districts rely excessively on suspensions; (2) black students are suspended at disproportionately high rates primarily because of educators’ racial bias; (3) suspensions cause substantial long-term harm to students; and (4) schools should curtail traditional discipline (suspensions) in favor of new “restorative” approaches that emphasize dialogue over punishment.

Critics of the DCL contend that it directly triggered a reduction in school suspensions nationwide, which has led to a rise in classroom disorder and violence.[1] Supporters argue that the DCL is merely “nonbinding guidance,” a simple reminder to school districts to administer school discipline in a nondiscriminatory manner, and that the declining use of suspensions in America has been mostly spurred at the grassroots level.

Who’s right? The facts leave little doubt that the DCL has been instrumental in reducing suspensions. But there is more to the story than is typically recognized.

As early as 2010, the Obama administration had begun breaking long-standing precedent by shifting OCR’s mission—from ensuring that school districts apply their own discipline policies evenhandedly to pressuring them into adopting the administration’s favored progressive discipline policies under threat of losing federal funding.

After the DCL was issued in 2014, OCR’s new mission was formalized and sharply expanded—as confirmed by an internal document (released to this author by a whistle-blower and former OCR employee) guiding OCR investigations of school districts. A Freedom of Information Act request on all disciplinary investigations from January 2009 to October 2017 reveals just how widespread OCR’s policy reach was.

During this period, at least 350 school districts—serving nearly 10 million children, or about one-fifth of all public elementary and secondary school students in the U.S.—were investigated for the express purpose of coercing districts into changing their discipline policies. Among the districts investigated were 52 of America’s 100 largest, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Seattle. The result: a further tightening of federal control over U.S. education, largely without parents’ knowledge or teachers’ consent, and the imposition of discipline policies that appear to be making America’s schools more disorderly and violent.[2]

To date, the Trump administration has neither rescinded the DCL nor ended OCR’s coercive investigations. As of June 29, 2018, 363 investigations were ongoing in 43 states, of which 79 have been open for four or more years, including those of the school districts of New Haven, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Columbus, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Denver.[3]


Stoneman Douglas at 6 Months

What the school lacked seems to be ignored:  Security personnel with the guts to do their job.  All the cameras in the world won't make up for that lack

It was six months ago but feels like just yesterday. On Feb. 14, a deranged teen attacked students and staff members at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17.

Like millions of parents and grandparents across America, I was transfixed by the news that day, watching the coverage with horror. I grieved for those whose lives were lost and those they left behind. And I feared for my own school-age grandkids.

On Wednesday, Stoneman Douglas opened its doors once again to a new school year. Again, like mothers and grandmothers nationwide, I want to know if anything has changed over the last half year.

The intervening months have certainly been eventful for some of Stoneman Douglas’ students. They marched in Washington, D.C., gave fiery speeches, and took a 20-state “Road to Change” bus tour to register voters and push for gun control. They rubbed shoulders with celebrities, gave hundreds of interviews, and made passionate appeals for gun control.

But as they settle back in at Parkland, will their school be any safer?

Fortunately, the answer appears to be “yes”—and it’s not because of any media-focused bus tour.

Instead, Broward County—like many other communities across America—has been working hard to improve school safety. Security upgrades at Stoneman Douglas include a new 12-foot security fence, improved classroom door locks, additional security guards, and continuous monitoring of the school’s video surveillance system. The school is even piloting the use of portable metal detectors.

None of these measures are as glamorous as a press conference with a movie star. But each will meaningfully improve school safety.

Of course, much more can and should be done. A good place to start is by taking action to prevent future tragedies by identifying and intervening with those who are likely to commit them.

I find it deeply disturbing that the Broward County school district reported no instances of bullying, harassment, battery, or trespassing at Stoneman Douglas for the entire 2016-17 school year. None.

That’s not just a problem—it’s a potential crisis. The Sun Sentinel reports that the school had many reportable incidents that year. But failure to report such incidents, as the paper observed, “mak[es] it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety.”

Why is this so relevant?  Because the Parkland attacker was himself the victim of reportedly vicious bullying. He was also the subject of dozens of tips made to local police and the FBI. But no one acted on that information—and then it was too late.

The “Road to Change” bus tour could have focused the nation’s attention on these issues. It could have called for schools’ safety improvements and proactive intervention for people like the Parkland attacker. Sadly, though, it seems to have had a very different objective.

According to the tour’s website, its objective was “to get young people educated, registered, and motivated to vote.” It was, according to its own words, a political operation.

Political activism is fine, but to focus on politics instead of commonsense solutions for school safety simply isn’t.

Nor is focusing solely on guns. The Columbine attackers brought bombs to school. Last year, a Maryland girl was arrested for planning to blow up her classmates. And just weeks after the Parkland attack, an ISIS-inspired Utah teen brought a homemade bomb to school.

That’s why a holistic approach is needed. More secure schools. Better mental health services. A proactive response to bullying. And “red flag” laws to keep weapons away from those who pose a clear threat to themselves and others.

These are just a few of the commonsense solutions that can make schools safer. None of them have the flash and dazzle of a political bus tour. But that’s all the more reason for us to pursue them.

After all, our children deserve nothing less. It’s been six months since the Parkland tragedy—and they’re heading back to school NOW.


Australia: Assaults on teachers are on the rise – but an expert claims it's the students' parents who are to blame

Violence in schools is becoming more frequent and intense, yet some believe that the students' parents are to blame.

A record number of teachers in New South Wales schools have lodged compensation claims regarding violence inflicted by students. NSW is believed to be the worst state in the country when it comes to violence in schools, and the numbers only seem to be getting worse.

Last year saw figures more than double from 17 violence-related claims lodged in 2016, to 41 in 2017, The Saturday Telegraph reported.

There has already been 15 assaults lodged so far this year, with expectations for more to come.

Australian Catholic University Associate Professor Philip Riley said that the children may be repeating behaviour they are enduring at home from violent parents.

'Kids are seeing parents modelling this sort of behaviour. We have a much more ingrained problem with violence in this country than we're caring to admit,' he said.

Professor Riley said that the violence is becoming more and more intense, and unfortunately more frequent. 'It is everything; biting, scratching, kicking, throwing things,' he said.

While many believe NSW is the worst state when it comes to violence, just last month it was revealed that staff at Queensland schools submitted 359 claims of physical violence between June 2017 and June 2018.

This number is higher than the previous year by 55 claims, and includes incidents of students punching teachers, throwing chairs or tackling them to the ground.

A spokesman from the NSW Department of Education said that they are trying to combat the issue by modifying violent student's behaviour.

The spokesman also said that they're implementing strategies to support teachers and education employees that are affected by workplace injuries. 'The programs implemented under the strategy have focused on injury prevention … support and recovery at work for staff,' they said.


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