Sunday, March 18News That Matters

In response to school shootings, Trump wants to increase discipline to target students of color

Donald Trump doesn’t have any particular policy goals for his presidency—other than to undo every single thing that Barack Obama achieved and take social equality and progress in America as far back as possible. He’s so obsessed with this agenda that he will use any excuse or event to make it happen. This includes using a tragedy like the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in order to increase discipline measures in public schools. 

On the surface, this may sound like a really appealing idea to parents, students, and the general public who are fearful of mass shootings in public places and want to keep people safe. Except it’s not at all likely to have the desired impact of increased safety—least of all for students of color, for whom it will turn out to be far worse.

[This] week, President Trump made the connection, announcing that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will lead a school safety commission charged in part with examining the “repeal of the Obama administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies.”

Mr. Trump’s prescription “notably backs away from raising the purchase age for assault-style rifles and restricting magazine capacity,” the N.A.A.C.P. said, and instead focuses on a system that once sent one million minority students to Florida jails for “simple and routine discipline issues ranging from talking back to teachers to schoolyard scuffles.”

Rethinking school discipline has long been a sensitive subject for lawmakers, schoolteachers, and administrators alike. On one hand, teachers and administrators often feel that policy guidance like the Obama-era one limits their autonomy and ability to respond to discipline incidents appropriately. They have a point—especially given that there is less agreement about the role the federal government can and should play in the oversight of K-12 schools compared to higher education. 

However, what guidance like this specifically attempts to do is to get educators to acknowledge the ways that structural racism and inequality exist in public education and asks them to work toward a remedy.