DeVos Push for ‘Character Development’ in Schools Paves the Way for Increased Racial & Economic Discrimination
Back in February, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told the media “character development and values are lacking in schools, which contributes to poor achievement”, ignoring the fact that “poor achievement stems from racist and punitive policies disguised as character development.”
Because students are now being treated like criminals thanks to Republican-controlled states adopting a zero-tolerance policy and suspending or even expelling students for “wearing the wrong uniform, truancy, disobeying teachers’ instructions, or getting into schoolyard fights”, they are more likely to fall behind as far as education is concerned, commit future offenses that ensure they enter the criminal justice system, and most importantly prevents them from social and emotional learning.
Law enforcement has begun mirroring “that broken windows policy that’s also discredited in law enforcement — that you attack the small things to prevent somebody from becoming a larger-scale criminal.”
And as a result of this stance, African-American students are more likely to be disciplined under zero-tolerance policies – a trend that begins in kindergarten.
Perhaps what is more disturbing is that any child labeled “disabled” (whether they are or not) are suspended twice as much and account for 1/4th of students who go on to be “arrested and referred to law enforcement.”
Students who are LGBTQ will find they are disproportionately punished – not only by fellow students, but educators and facility as well. In fact, 15.1% of LGBTQ students are suspended while 41% experience being disciplined, suspended, detained or expelled simply because of their sexual orientation or non-traditional gender expression.
DeVos herself invited more discrimination in schools when she said during her confirmation hearing: “I do not think the nation’s governors want me to come to their states and tell them what to do.”
In the end, DeVos’ focus is making sure more children are enrolled in charter schools where the educators have the freedom to discipline students without pesky oversight by the public school system.
By cherry-picking students and refusing to enroll certain types of children, charter schools have been able to exclude kids through suspensions via racially motivated adherence to rules created by the individual charter.
The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that when “compared to white students, black students were four times as likely to be suspended; compared to students who aren’t disabled, students with disabilities were two to three times as likely to be suspended.”
To break this down, African American students are 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from a charter; in part because how the teach interprets the child’s behavior weighs heavily on that educator’s perspective of minorities.
Because of this profiling bias , “25 percent of black students with disabilities received at least one suspension in the 2009–2010 school year.”
And yet, despite the obvious discrimination and educational problems charters pose, Washington State recently approved receipt of a $4 million federal education grant; of which a portion will go to financing charters regardless of the fact that state laws do not “allow for the spending of local levies on charter schools.”
However, in an effort to increase “students attending charter schools” the monies will be redirected.
The target of these charters is to funnel “educationally disadvantaged students who have historically struggled in traditional public school settings” into charters and yet historically those students are suspended or expelled out of the charter system – effectively leaving those children without the ability to obtain an education.