by Karen R. Effrem, MD
The School Safety Commission ordered by President Trump that will discuss and recommend ways to keep schools safer after the tragic Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February is set to hold its first series of roundtable discussions this Wednesday, April 4th. This commission, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. The commission held an organizational meeting last week.
The first topic to be discussed under this new commission will be the possibility of rescinding the school discipline guidance issued by the Obama administration. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, as have many others, including Jane Robbins and Erin Tuttle of the American Principles Project, Breitbart’s Dr. Susan Berry, and Ann Coulter. Review of the guidance and grants have all shown that the Broward County Public Schools and Sheriff’s office have ignored a great deal of criminal behavior — including that of the Parkland shooter — in concert with receiving this guidance, the Promise program, and millions of dollars in School Climate grants.
Although Superintendent Robert Runcie has protested in a Sun-Sentinel op-ed that this cause of the shooting is “fake news,” an interview of Max Eden, a school violence expert from the Manhattan Institute, by Dr. Susan Berry strongly refuted that notion:
“Runcie’s careful formulation contains a falsehood, several omissions, and obfuscations,” Eden says. “It doesn’t cover middle school, where Cruz racked up about two dozen offenses and was transferred into an intensive behavior management school – without ever getting an arrest record.”
“Runcie claims that PROMISE only covered ‘non-violent’ offenses,” Eden observes. “That’s just straight false. The 2013 version covered assault and fighting; the 2016 version covered ‘affray,’ i.e., fighting. That means Cruz’s fights were only deemed non-PROMISE eligible based on administrator discretion, not policy.”
“Given that Cruz is alleged to have threatened students, it’s also worth noting that ‘threats’ are a PROMISE-eligible offense,” he continues. “Perhaps those incidents weren’t recorded as threats. Students have reported that Cruz brought bullets and knives to school. Perhaps those incidents weren’t recorded at all. Or perhaps they were and Runcie’s statement eludes them; the discipline matrix doesn’t highlight Class B Weapons as a PROMISE-eligible Incident.”
Ann Coulter quoted the threats that Cruz allegedly made to kill other students at school that were ignored by school officials:
At least three students showed school administrators Cruz’s near-constant messages threatening to kill them — e.g., “I am going to enjoy seeing you down on the grass,” “Im going to watch ypu bleed,” “iam going to shoot you dead” — including one that came with a photo of Cruz’s guns. They warned school authorities that he was bringing weapons to school. They filed written reports.
The excellent testimony of Eden to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on School Violence painted a stark picture of the dangerous atmosphere for students, especially vulnerable students and staff, created by the Obama guidance that threatened and started investigations in hundreds of school districts for “unlawful discrimination” if students of different races broke the rules at different rates — all without even a regulation:
At Lincoln High School in San Diego, a male student with cerebral palsy was raped in the bathroom. The teacher who caught the rapist in the act tried to raise the alarm. But the administration downgraded the event to an “obscene act.” They did not even attempt expulsion. For their part, the police did not even inform the mother that her son had been raped.
Eden also quoted teachers from around the country who have dramatic stories of the life threatening environments in which they are forced to work:
“Students are threatening teachers with violence and in many cases are physically attacking teachers without consequences.”
“School environment is unsafe. I do not feel safe. Teachers are afraid. Students have little or no consequences for behavior that is often outright violent toward students and staff. Please help us!”
Even Politico noted that teachers are against the policy:
…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.
There are groups that want to keep the policy for the sake of “equity.” However, these groups are either not realizing or not acknowledging that the higher proportion of discipline issues in minority students is related to the significantly higher percentages of minority children raised in households without fathers, a fact evident in social science research for decades.
Given all of the damage this policy and these grants have done to student and teacher safety, local control, and school district costs, repealing this guidance is an incredibly wise idea. It is something that the Trump administration can do without pursuing the complicated legislative process and will have great benefits.