Judging by video evidence, the participants in the violent mall brawls over the Christmas weekend were overwhelmingly black teens, though white teens were also involved. The media have assiduously ignored this fact, of course, as they have for previous violent flash mob episodes. That disproportion has significance for the next administration’s school-discipline policies, however. If Donald Trump wants to make schools safe again, he must rescind the Obama administration’s diktats regarding classroom discipline, which are based on a fantasy version of reality that is having serious real-world consequences.
The Obama Justice and Education Departments have strong-armed schools across the country to all but eliminate the suspension and expulsion of insubordinate students. The reason? Because black students are disciplined at higher rates than whites. According to Washington bureaucrats, such disproportionate suspensions can mean only one thing: teachers and administrators are racist. The Obama administration rejects the proposition that black students are more likely to assault teachers or fight with other students in class. The so-called “school to prison” pipeline is a function of bias, not of behavior, they say.
This week’s mall violence, which injured several police and security officers, is just the latest piece of evidence for how counterfactual that credo is. A routine complaint in police-community meetings in minority areas is that large groups of teens are fighting on corners. Residents of the South Bronx’s 41st Precinct complained repeatedly to the precinct commander in a June 2015 meeting about such street disorder. “There’s too much fighting,” one woman said. “There was more than 100 kids the other day; they beat on a girl about 14 years old.” In April 2016, a 17-year-old girl in Coney Island, Brooklyn, Ta’Jae Warner, tried to protect her brother from a group of girls gathered outside her apartment building who were threatening to kill him; one of the group knocked her unconscious. She died four days later. At a meeting in the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem in 2015, residents asked why the police hadn’t stopped a recent stampede of youth down Third Avenue. In April 2012, a group of teens stomped a gang rival to death in a Bronx housing project.
The idea that such street behavior does not have a classroom counterpart is ludicrous. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age. The lack of socialization that produces such a vast disparity in murder rates, as well as less lethal street violence, inevitably will show up in classroom behavior. Teens who react to a perceived insult on social media by trying to shoot the offender are not likely to restrain themselves in the classroom if they feel “disrespected” by a teacher or fellow students. Interviews with teachers confirm the proposition that children from communities with high rates of family breakdown bring vast amounts of disruptive anger to school, especially girls. It is no surprise that several of the Christmas riots began with fights between girls.
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