Most media outlets reported on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on disparities in school discipline without much follow up, but Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald took a closer look at federal school and crime data and found the GAO study misleading, to say the least.
“The GAO found that black students get suspended at nearly three times the rate of white students nationally, a finding consistent with previous analyses,” Mac Donald wrote in the City Journal on April 6, 2018. “The Obama Education and Justice Departments viewed that disproportion as proof of teacher and principal bias.”
“Administration officials used litigation and the threatened loss of federal funding to force schools to reduce suspensions and expulsions radically in order to eliminate racial disparities in discipline.” As it turns out, there is justice and education data from the federal government that the GAO and the Obama Administration barely acknowledged, Mac Donald claims.
“According to federal data, black male teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at nearly 10 times the rate of white male teenagers of the same age,” Mac Donald avers, “(the category ‘white’ in this homicide data includes most Hispanics; if Hispanics were removed from the white category, the homicide disparity between blacks and whites would be much higher).”
As it turns out, the Justice and Education Departments recently released their annual report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety that got a bit less media attention than the GAO report, except from Mac Donald. She notes that:
• “Black students self-reported being in a physical fight at school at over twice the rate of white students in 2015—a data point certainly relevant to the question of racial rates of school discipline.”
• “Schools that were 50 percent minority or more reported weekly gang activity at nearly ten times the rate of schools where minorities constituted 5 percent to 20 percent of the population.”
• “Reports of gang violence in schools with less than 5 percent minority populations were too low to be usable statistically.”
• “Widespread weekly disorder in classrooms was reported in schools with at least 50 percent minority populations at more than five times the rate as in schools with 5 percent to 20 percent minorities.”
• “More than four times as many high-minority schools reported weekly verbal abuse of teachers compared with schools with a less than 20 percent minority student body.”
• “Widespread disorder and teacher abuse at schools with less than 5 percent minority populations was again too low to be statistically reliable.”
Interestingly, and rather alarmingly, coverage of so-called “racial disparities” glosses over not only widespread chaos in inner city schools but also a very relevant possible cause: “While the number of black teens committing murder is relatively small compared with their numbers at large, a very high percentage of black children—71 percent—come from the stressed-out, single-parent homes that result in elevated rates of crime,” Mac Donald writes.
Mac Donald is the author of The War On Cops. Now here would be an interesting follow-up study for the GAO, the Manhattan Institute or anybody else: a comparison of school violence in traditional public schools and charter schools.