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The soft bigotry of low expectations

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In April, we complained that the Obama administration's push to use "disparate impact" to encourage schools to discipline misbehaving African-American students less often was both undercovered by the media and potentially disastrous to both public schools and the African-American community. In City Journal, Heather Mac Donald has a must-read expanding on this issue, with supporting statistics:

The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.

Though the federal government does not collect data on student misbehavior by race, it does survey schools on their discipline problems. During the 2009-10 school year, the rate at which schools that were over 50 percent minority reported gang activity was five times as high as the rate at schools where minorities constituted 5 to 20 percent of the population. More than 11 times as many schools in the first category as in the second reported widespread weekly disorder in classrooms; more than four times as many reported weekly verbal abuse of teachers. The Departments of Education and Justice publish this information in their annual Indicators of School Crime and Safety, but they have not allowed it to contaminate their official position that racial disparities in student discipline reflect racial inequity, not student behavior.

Hans Bader argues that the problem is even worse at the state level, with Maryland proposing actual quotas in discipline. The consequences in integrated schools can be appalling, with actual disparate treatment to prevent disparate impact: one commenter at Joanne Jacobs' blog claims to have had a "difficult month" when a smaller child of a disfavored race was severely beaten by a 6-foot-tall seventh grader of a more widely misbehaving race—and the school only punished the victim to avoid disrupting its statistics. Word "quickly spread that violence against the "under-disciplined" ethnic group was treated as a freebie."

Litigation to prevent this nonsense is very badly needed before we have a lost generation.

See also Overlawyered.

Related: Roger Clegg analyzes an appalling Department of Justice brief in Fisher v. University of Texas defending racial discrimination against Asians. [Bench Memos via Fed Soc, which needs to do a better job of making sure its links work; see also Reuters]

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.