Betsy DeVos planning on using school gun violence commission as a tool to punish Black students
It seems like every few weeks, the Trump administration plans on reversing another Obama-era policy seemingly out of spite. The latest appears to be coming from Betsy DeVos, and it is aimed at ensuring that minority children are unfairly disciplined, according to The New York Times.
In documents obtained by The New York Times, the administration argues that the efforts have eased up on punishment and contributed to rising violence in the nation’s schools.
The decision also appears to be an attempt to blame the Obama administration for February’s massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Almost immediately, the commission turned away from guns and instead scrutinized the Obama administration’s school discipline policies, though none of the most high-profile school shootings were actually committed by Black students.
The commission’s focus has been a part of a broader effort to reject the Obama administration’s race-conscious education efforts. Their moves which have included siding with a group of Asian students suing Harvard to end affirmative action and delaying an Obama-era rule to prevent disproportionate numbers of minority children from being funneled into special education classes.
“The federal government’s paramount obligation is to guarantee student safety, including when it is acting to ensure that educational programs and policies are administered in a racially neutral fashion,” the commission wrote in their report. “However, where well-meaning but flawed policies endanger student safety, they must be changed.”
The 2014 Obama policy advised schools on how to discipline students in a nondiscriminatory manner and examine education data to look for racial disparities that could flag a federal civil rights violation. The edict is nonbinding, but conservative critics have argued that the edict pressured districts into keeping suspensions low at the expense of student safety.
The Obama discipline edict was a strange target considering the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is white, had been previously expelled from school, banned from campus, and had been referred to law enforcement numerous times. But opponents pointed to Cruz being part of an alternative discipline program called Promise in the Broward County Public Schools.
However, the program started a year before the Obama guidance was issued. The commission also cited several studies and surveys that showed discontent with the discipline policy.
A Justice Department spokeswoman defended the review as an effort to make sure policies “do not go beyond the law or are inconsistent with the Constitution.”
“We are continuing to review documents to prevent improper rulemaking and executive branch overreach,” Kelly Laco, the spokeswoman, said to the Times. “The Justice Department remains committed to enforcing the law and protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination.”