By James Swyter
In less than two weeks, Oregon students will be heading back to school. Most parents have hopes for an engaging, educational school year. But unfortunately, some kids get in trouble. Under the Biden Administration, schools could have their discipline policies controlled by the federal government.
Catherine Lhamon is the head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which is the second time she has held this position. Last time she was there, her department observed that certain racial groups seemed more likely to be suspended than others. In response, she opened investigations into hundreds of school districts. The schools were told to get their racial disparity numbers down.
This policy had disastrous effects. For example, as part of its agreement with the federal government, the Minneapolis Public School District set goals for how many students of each race could be suspended.
Portland Public Schools also used race-based goals, setting a goal of reducing the number of minorities being suspended compared to white students by one-third.
Regardless of racial disparities, quotas are not a good way to run a classroom. Teachers and principals are in the best position to judge how students should be disciplined. A top-down approach from the federal government is inappropriate.
We should let local school districts determine discipline, not the feds.
James Swyter is a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.