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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Public Schools--Where the Soul Goes to Die

At one time, schools were entrusted to inculcate children with our culture and traditions. Now, schools seem to exemplify the worst of communist and fascist regimes, with arbitrary and capricious rules, a Byzantine bureaucracy in larger cities and districts, and embodying the principle of institutional insanity.

A couple cases in point. Fox News reports that Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has forbidden a group of students from singing, praying, or discuss religious topics during their free time. Of course, viewpoint discrimination against religious groups has long been held by the U.S. Supreme Court to violate the First Amendment, so it is not like something like this can be put down to ignorance of the school official. School officials are attempting to defend themselves on a rule that states that "non-curriculum related groups may only meet during non-instructional time"--i.e., between 7:45 a.m. when classes begin, and after 2:45 p.m. when classes end. This will be interesting, because, according to the article, the students were meeting informally. That is, they were not a formal "group." If "group" includes students of related interests, then the ban should extend to "groups" of friends getting together to discuss anything but their school work, and pretty much ban more than 2 people from discussing anything (similar to POW camps). However, that the school is enforcing it against a group of religious students and, presumably, not against a group of girls discussing makeup, or boys discussing Halo, pretty much shows that the intent of the rule was to discriminate against religious students.

Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog indicates that the Minneapolis School District has come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to attempt to balance the rate of discipline between black students and white students.   A statement from the District's superintendent explains:
Moving forward, every suspension of a black or brown student will be reviewed by the superintendent’s leadership team. The school district aims to more deeply understand the circumstances of suspensions with the goal of providing greater supports to the school, student or family in need. This team could choose to bring in additional resources for the student, family and school.
... MPS must aggressively reduce the disproportionality between black and brown students and their white peers every year for the next four years. This will begin with a 25 percent reduction in disproportionality by the end of this school year; 50 percent by 2016; 75 percent by 2017; and 100 percent by 2018.
The Hit & Run author focuses on this being discriminatory because whites and minorities will not receive the same process in handling suspensions. My take on it is a little different. Under threat from the federal government, the District is required to reduce the disparity. In practical application, the District will have a choice of either reducing the number of suspensions of minority students by allowing violent offenders to stay in school (thereby risking tort suits down the road from victims of those violent offenders) or increasing the number of suspensions for white students by handing out more harsh penalties for minor infractions of the rules. My guess is that the District will initially try to reduce the number of suspensions for minorities, find that such a plan is unworkable, and then shift to suspending more of the white students in order to make the number of suspensions more even.

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