School Discipline: Should zero-tolerance policies be revised?

Some school districts are voluntarily revamping their discipline policies, while the Justice Department has sued others referred to them by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, which has 152 ongoing discipline investigations in 37 states. Since 2000, the office has responded to more than 7,622 complaints involving discipline at elementary and secondary schools, says Dorie Turner Nolt, the department's press secretary.

In one case, the Oakland, Calif., school district worked with the Office for Civil Rights on a five-year voluntary plan to reduce suspensions, expulsions and disciplinary racial disparity with a variety of intervention and support programs. . . .

The government's legal remedies are controversial. “These ‘targeted reductions’ are racial quotas in all but name,” said Bader, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  “Stopping school officials from disciplining black students who violate school rules just because they previously disciplined more black than white students is as crazy as ordering police to stop arresting black criminals just because they previously arrested more blacks than whites.”’

Bader said the Oakland agreement violates the California constitution and federal court rulings that forbid racial quotas for school discipline. “The only practical way for a school system to comply with the Education Department's demands is to adopt a de facto racial quota in discipline. But this itself puts the school system in legal jeopardy.”

[80] Hans Bader, “Obama Administration Imposes Racial Quotas on School Discipline in Oakland,” Oct. 12, 2012,