Violent Attack in Fla. School Shows Danger of Obama-Era Discipline Policy

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Andrew Pollack — father of Meadow Pollack, one of the seventeen students and staff murdered in the Parkland shooting last February — recently posted a two-part video of a fight at Monarch High School in Broward County, Florida:

The perpetrator of this barbaric behavior only received a civil citation from the school district. It was not until the video in the tweets above was sent to the Coconut Creek Police Department that the assailant was arrested for battery. This incident and the way it was handled perfectly and simply encapsulates why the PROMISE program and the guidance from the Obama administration Justice and Education Departments is so misguided and dangerous and must be rescinded.

Many others and I have written extensively on this topic. Here are several key summary points available in my formal comments submitted to the federal School Safety Commission:

  • Federal influence on state and local school-discipline policies actually dis-incentivized arrests of troubled students (especially minority and disabled).
  • Multiple, politically diverse sources have described how dangerous classrooms are for students trying to learn and staff trying to teach in and promote a safe, orderly school environment:
    • Manhattan Institute Fellow Max Eden, quoting the Buffalo Teachers Federation safety survey in congressional testimony: “Students are threatening teachers with violence and in many cases are physically attacking teachers without consequences.”
    • Politico: “…teachers [have] said that such policies keep dangerous children in schools, posing a physical threat to students and staff and creating a disruptive learning environment.”
    • Bloomberg News op-ed: “States and districts ought to intervene when schools unfairly target minorities for punishment. But basing that judgment on whether schools have higher rates of punishment for minorities than for white students applies a dangerously blunt standard, which runs the risk of leading schools to be too tolerant of disruptive and dangerous behavior.”
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), especially the school-wide version of the program, is far from the best idea for improving discipline for many reasons, including:
    • The federal support center for PBIS admits it is still experimental, meaning that there are no controlled trials and untrained school personnel are engaging in very sensitive personality-changing interventions without any evidence of improvement, but even more importantly without parental consent:
      • Most experts agree that school-wide PBIS is in its infancy. [Emphasis added]
      • “Because the roots of PBS are in applied experimental analysis of behavior, the evidence for PBS, at this time, is primarily derived from single subject designs…”

Pollack rightly says in his tweets that these kind of diversionary justice programs allow violent students “to go undetected/unpunished in the school system,” and that “the Promise program implemented by the Obama admin allows schools to apply lighter punishments & conceal incidents like this.”

He firmly believes, that “these diversionary programs led to the murder of my daughter and 16 other kids.” Based on theses videos, the evidence presented here, and much more, he has significant justification for that statement.

We must do a better job to protect students and teachers so that teachers may teach and children may learn. If you live in Florida, contact Governor-elect DeSantis and urge him to hold Broward Superintendent (and Arne Duncan protégé) Robert Runcie, as well as the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, accountable for these blatant, dangerous failures. And wherever you live, please take the time to send these videos to the School Safety Commission at safety@ed.gov, asking them to rescind the Obama era discipline guidance and urging them to seek the repeal of the PROMISE program in ESSA by Congress. The life of someone you care about in the public schools may depend on it.


Karen R. Effrem, MD

Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.