Local school officials know best
Ohio schools will likely feel little effect from the U.S. Department of Education’s rollback of Obama-era warnings to schools about the number of suspensions being handed out to minority students.
At the time, there was concern that minority students across the country were being suspended at much higher rates than white students. Of course, once they were forced out of the classroom, they fell behind. Federal education officials said that meant some minority students never bounced back, and their educations suffered, as a result of having been disciplined too harshly. School officials were warned they could face civil rights investigations if the feds believed they were disproportionately suspending minority students.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos removed that warning this week, with an important explanation:
“Discipline is a matter on which classroom teachers and local school leaders deserve and need autonomy,” DeVos said. “I would encourage them to continue to implement discipline reforms that they believe will foster improved outcomes for their students.”
The Federal Commission on School Safety, appointed by President Donald Trump in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, had recommended the change.
That means Ohio continues to have the freedom to try to reduce the number of suspensions in general. In fact, legislators have passed a law that limits them.
On the other hand, school districts need no longer feel as though they are being lined up for a civil rights investigation if they feel the right course of action to serve ALL their students is to suspend a student who is being willfully disruptive, bullying another student — or teacher — or is generally dangerous.
DeVos and the folks at the U.S. Department of Education are to be commended for understanding the people best equipped to know how to maintain control over their schools and keep their students safe are the teachers and administrators who spend every day with their students.