The Corner

Education

Withdraw the Obama Administration’s ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter on School Discipline

President Obama in 2016 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which does great work, has written U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, urging her to withdraw an Obama-era “Dear Colleague” letter giving school administrators “guidance” on how to comply with federal law when it comes to school discipline.

Threatening lawsuits if the administrators didn’t comply with the “guidance,” the 2014 letter coerced many school systems into adopting illegal racial quotas in their disciplinary decision-making.

The Obama letter utilized the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement, whereby a policy that does not discriminate on its face, in its intent, or in its application is nonetheless deemed illegal if it has “disproportionate” statistical effects among different racial and ethnic groups.

A number of other organizations, including the Center for Equal Opportunity, joined on WILL’s letter to Secretary DeVos, which continues the steady drumbeat on this important issue from conservative groups. Here’s hoping that she withdraws the discipline letter soon, as she correctly did with similar letters by the Obama administration regarding sexual harassment on college campuses and transgender students in school bathrooms.

Certainly, there is no lack of reasons to withdraw the letter, which created both legal and policy problems. Procedurally, it violates both the Congressional Review Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Substantively, as the WILL letter explains, the Education Department lacks authority to use the “disparate impact” standard in enforcing Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal funds. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v. Sandoval that Title VI bans only “disparate treatment.” In any event, the letter’s hyper-aggressive approach violates other Supreme Court and lower federal-court decisions, including a ban on racial quotas in school discipline.

As a policy matter, there is overwhelming evidence that Obama-era policies culminating in this “Dear Colleague” letter pushed schools to avoid disciplining students who needed to be disciplined. It made avoiding politically incorrect numbers more important than maintaining school safety.

The victims of this unfair and unlawful policy are most likely to be well-behaving, minority students — and their teachers — whose classrooms become disrupted and dangerous. And it doesn’t do misbehaving students any favors either, since a lack of early corrective action may only encourage even more disruptive and potentially dangerous behavior. This is what some refer to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

So, kudos to WILL. And please, Secretary DeVos, withdraw that letter immediately and instead ensure that the Education Department follows good educational policy, Title VI, and the Constitution.

Most Popular

Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More
Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

A series of massive explosions detonated in Beirut on Tuesday, with footage showing a mushroom cloud and shockwave emanating from the city port. [embed]https://twitter.com/air_intel/status/1290676373485490177[/embed] It is still unclear what caused the explosions. Lebanese security forces claimed the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

What or Who Decides This Election?

We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
Culture

Monsters Galore

Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More
Culture

Monsters Galore

Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More
U.S.

Our Summer of Cultural Suicide

Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More