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Letter to Maryland State Board of Education

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Letter to Maryland State Board of Education

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As a lawyer who used to bring civil-rights cases for a living, I am writing in opposition to the Board of Education’s proposed rule on race in school discipline, COMAR 13A.08.01.21, Reducing and Eliminating Disproportionate/Discrepant Impact. It is contained in the July 2012 Report of the Maryland Board of Education: School Discipline and Academic Success: Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform. . .COMAR 13A.08.01.21 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by pressuring schools to discipline students based on their race, rather than their individual conduct and the content of their character. That is at odds with court rulings like the federal appeals court ruling in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 534 (7th Cir. 1997), which forbid both racial-balancing, and quotas, in school discipline.

Crimes and infractions are not evenly distributed among racial groups, as the Supreme Court noted in United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456 (1996). As that 8-to-1 Supreme Court ruling emphasized, there is no legal “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, since such a presumption is “contradicted by” real world data. For example, “more than 90% of” convicted cocaine traffickers “were black” in 1994, while “93.4% of convicted LSD dealers were white.” Crime rates are higher in some ethnic groups than others.

But the Board of Education seems to have forgotten that reality in proposing a rule that would require school systems to discipline and suspend students in numbers roughly in proportion to their racial percentage of the student body, and require school systems that currently don’t do so to implement plans to eliminate any racially “disproportionate impact” over a three-year period. Thus, it is imposing quotas in all but name.