Tag: Breitbart

Parkland Shooting Doesn’t Justify More Cops and Harsh Discipline

Tragedy has a way of bringing out demagoguery. This has been especially true in the weeks since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz went on a murderous rampage in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High…

Tragedy has a way of bringing out demagoguery. This has been especially true in the weeks since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz went on a murderous rampage in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and took the lives of 17 young men and women who should be sitting in classrooms today. This includes the Occupant of the White House and others calling for laws allowing teachers and other adults in schools to carry firearms into classrooms, an idea that ignores the obstacles to that being effective under any circumstances and would increase the violence to which Black and Brown children are already subjected.

Once of the demagogic arguments emerging from the Parkland massacre is one being perpetuated is the idea that Cruz’s rampage would have been stemmed if not for efforts encouraged by the Obama Administration to stem the overuse of harsh school discipline — including the presence of cops patrolling the corridors of public schools.

As argued by less-reputable outlets and conservative writers such as Breitbart and Ann Coulter as well as supposedly respectable types such as Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden (based mostly off a clip job of a Washington Post article) and (with a little more reason) David French ofĀ National Review, if the Broward district, as part of its PROMISE school discipline reform initiative, didn’t team up with the county’s sheriff to reduce the number of students being arrested for minor offenses, Cruz would have been arrested and kept from doing harm to his former schoolmates.

Particularly for Eden, the Parkland massacre is another way to oppose school discipline reforms happening throughout the country, as well as overturn the Obama Administration-era guidance advising districts to not overuse suspensions and other discipline, especially against poor and minority children. Of course, this isn’t shocking; Eden will engage in any kind of sophistry and data fudging to advance his cause.

The problem, as you can expect, is that this line of argument doesn’t stand up to these rather demonstrable facts.

The first, as the Washington Post notes, is that Broward did plenty when it came to Cruz and his issues. This includes twice transferring him to an alternative high school, Cross Creek, after his behavioral issues became too difficult for teachers and school leaders to handle, as well as referring the young man to Florida’s child welfare agency after a fight during the 2016-2017 school year; the child welfare agency determined that he was of little risk to himself or to those around him.

Some would say that Cruz’s case illustrates the crucial need for schools to provide mental health care, a subject of earlier Dropout Nation commentaries, as well as the general social need to do better in providing community mental health care. Others may say it demonstrates the failure of social service agencies in identifying those who endanger others as well as themselves. Both may be true. At the same time, based on the evidence, the real issue seems to lie with state laws that make it all too easy for anyone to obtain a firearm.

The second: That Broward County still arrests and refers thousands of children to juvenile and criminal justice systems. Twenty-two hundred sixty-eight students were arrested or referred during the 2015-2016 school year, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. While that number is two-thirds lower than arrests and incidents in 2009-2010, the numbers have remained constant since 2011-2012.

The presence of cops in schools hasn’t led to greater safety for children. This is because crime in schools has been in decline for three decades. What their presence has done is caused harm, physical and otherwise, to youth such as Noe Nino de Rivera.

What has changed is that Broward is less likely to have children arrested and referred for incidents that can be handled within schools. Crimes that should be handled by cops such as battery, sexual assault, drug possession and weapons possession accounted for 64.4 percent of arrests and referrals in 2015-2016 versus 47.4 percent in 2009-2010. Other incidents traditionally handled by schools are, well, being handled by them. This includes fighting, which now accounts for 8.9 percent of referrals versus 27.6 percent of them six years ago.

This has resulted in Broward reducing the number of children put on the path to prison overall, an effort that, by the way, predate the implementation of the district’s PROMISE program; referrals declined by 64 percent between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. This is especially true when it comes to poor and minority children who made up the majority of children arrested and referred according to data submitted by Broward to the federal government.

The number of Black children in regular classrooms arrested and referred, for example, declined by two-thirds between 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 (from 3,835 to 1,011), while the rate of arrest and referral declined from 3.8 percent to 1 percent in that same period. [The percentage of White children arrested and referred declined from 1.3 percent to four-tenths of one percent in that same period, with a two-thirds decline in the numbers (from 920 to 267) in that time period.] Overall, the number of Broward children in regular classrooms arrested and referred declined by 70.5 percent (from 6,050 to 1,786) in that period.

Which leads to a third fact: For all that Broward is doing, it is still condemning far too many children to juvenile and criminal justice systems. “Disruption on campus”, a catch-all term that covers plenty of non-violent and minor behaviors now account for 18.7 percent of referrals versus a mere 7.9 percent in 2009-2010. This is way too high. Black children still account for 57.8 of students arrested and referred despite accounting for just 39.6 percent of enrollment. Given that Cruz himself was considered a White student, he was far less likely than his Black former peers to be arrested or referred to law enforcement.

This problem extends to other forms of harsh discipline. While Broward meted out one or more suspensions by 61.6 percent between 2009-2010 and 2013-2014, the number of suspensions meted out against Black children increased by 43.6 percent (from 1,490 to 2,139). Even worse, Black students account for 62.6 percent of out-of-school suspensions meted out in 2013-2014, versus 16.7 percent of suspensions four years earlier.

Finally, contrary to the assertions of these demagogues (as well as the views of many opponents of reforming school discipline), the reality is that the presence of cops in schools does nothing to make them safer. The body of research was clear even before the Parkland massacre, in which a Broward County sheriff’s deputy patrolling the premises didn’t take on Cruz when he began shooting up the school.

As Dropout Nation detailed over the past few years, more districts, especially those in big cities, are launching their own police agencies even as youth crime has been on a three decade-long decline. Between 1996 and 2008, the number of districts operating police departments more than doubled (from 117 to 250), according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Districts are also bringing in more cops from police departments. The number of cops in schools increased by 38 percent between 1997 and 2007; today, 43 percent of America’s schools (including 42 percent of high schools and another 23 percent of elementary schools where children younger than 12 are supposed to be learning) are patrolled by some form of law enforcement.

Yet as the Justice Policy Institute notes in a report released in 2011, there is no evidence that increased presence of law enforcement in schools leads to safer schools. If anything, the presence of cops in schools all but ensures that children will be arrested and referred to juvenile and criminal justice systems. As University of Florida Professor Jason Nance determined in a 2016 study, the increased presence of police in schools always leads to more children and teens being arrested, even after controlling for demographics and levels of crime in surrounding communities. Those arrests, in turn, are often for minor infractions that are better-handled by teachers and school leaders. In Birmingham, Ala., for example, 86 percent of students arrested in 2009-2010 were picked up for disruptive behavior and other issues that would usually be handled in schools.

Even worse, poor and minority children, along with those condemned to the nation’s special education ghettos, are the ones most-likely to be targeted by cops. Black children, for example, were 2.2 times more-likely to be arrested or referred to juvenile and criminal justice systems than White peers in 2013-2014, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education; youth in special ed accounted for 26 percent of arrests and referrals in 2012-2013, according to Center for Public Integrity in its analysis. Meanwhile in South Carolina, Black children accounted for 70.9 percent of the arrests and referrals to juvenile justice for the catch-all of “disturbing schools” in 2014-2015, according to the American Civil Liberties Union; this is despite the fact that Black children make up little more than a third of all children in the state’s public education system.

Meanwhile the presence of cops also leads to children being assaulted and abused by them. From the 110 incidents of pepper-spraying of children by cops patrolling the schools of the Birmingham, Ala., district , to the permanent injuring of Noe Nino de Rivera, a 17-year-old junior Cedar Creek High School in Bastrop County, Texas, who ended up in a coma for a full year after an officer tased him, there are far too many instances of cops harming children. As the Bureau of Justice Statisticsā€™ detailed in its own analysis, school cops are often poorly trained to address problems in schools, and therefore, unfit to handle minor issues that teachers and school leaders can address in less-physically harmful ways.Ā  We need fewer cops in schools, not more.

Put simply, contrary to what conservatives and opponents of school discipline reform want to think, rare mass shootings such as the Parkland Massacre won’t be solved by the presence of more cops and harsher discipline. Of course, if those folks (especially Coulter and Eden) actually cared about children, they wouldn’t suggest this in the first place. Or use tragedy as grist for their mills of demagoguery.

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On 529s and the Intent of Movements

The other problem with 529s for school choice: Yesterday,Ā Dropout Nation explained why the plan by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to transform 529 higher education savings vehicles to expand…

The other problem with 529s for school choice: Yesterday,Ā Dropout Nation
explained why the plan by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to transform 529 higher education savings vehicles to expand school choice does little for poor and minority communities who lack the incomes and wealth to use them. But the more your editor and others think through the plan itself, the more it becomes clear that it will even harm middle-class families as well as damage efforts to ensure that all children attain higher education they need for success in adulthood.

How is that possible? Start with how 529s currently work — and how the Congressional Republican proposal would pervert it.

When a family contributes to a 529 plan, they are looking to grow the dollars they put in so that at least a portion of higher ed tuition costs are covered. This is done over time by investing contributions of up to $14,000 a year (or $70,000 in one year to cover a five-year period) into mutual funds as well as money market accounts similar to certificates of deposit issued by banks. Over time, those initial dollars (as well as additional contributions over time) should grow thanks to investment growth and interest compounding.

But this isn’t possible if families start tapping 529 accounts to pay for private school tuition costs or even tutoring expenses. Why? Because the more money siphoned off from contributions to elementary and secondary education expenses, the less money will go towards college savings.

Say a family contributes to the full maximum of $14,000 a year. [Most never do.] They may be able to avoid cutting into long-term college savings if they limit K-12 expenses to around $4,000 a year. But the average private school tuition in the United States is $7,700, according to the U.S. Department of Education — and in many places such as Maryland, private-school tuition is even higher. Put simply, the more money spent out of the 529 on private school and tutoring costs, the less money will be saved for college. They also lose out on future investment gains and interest compounding in the process.

Some of these issues would have been avoided if Congressional Republicans chose instead to expand the use of Flexible Spending Accounts — which are used to pay for preschool and child care expenses as well as medical costs — for use to fund private-school tuition and other K-12 expenditures. That move would have been even better for families who already use those plans because those are funded through paycheck withholding and would be supported by the 20 percent federal child care tax credit already in place. But this wasn’t likely proposed.

One reason lies with Heritage Foundation and its education czar, Lindsey Burke, who have been the prime proponents of the 529 expansion. The other lies with the overall intent of Congressional Republicans to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cut. The proposals in House Resolution 1, along with the 529 transformation, likely have the affect of decimating American higher education. If successful, those moves will damage the futures of children regardless of background to gain knowledge they need for lifelong success.

This effort against higher education includes the proposed elimination of the lifelong learning credit of $2,000 (which is used to by nontraditional collegians to offset the cost of tuition), the $5,250-per-person deduction given to companies that offer higher ed tuition assistance programs to their employees, and changes that would only reduce the percentage of taxpayers who can reduce their tax burdens by itemizing donations to universities and nonprofits from 30 percent to five percent.

Viewed against those other moves, the expansion of the use of 529s for use on K-12 costs would damage higher education by making it even harder for families to save for the tuition costs. Which means that this is an even worse plan for children than even I realized. When you add in all of the other proposed changes to the tax code that also harm families — including the elimination of deductions for medical savings accounts and adoption expenses — the Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration can be accused of waging war on the efforts of middle-class and even poor families to help their children survive and succeed.

Intent Makes a Movement: One of the most-interesting questions this week was incidentally raised by Columbia University scholar and New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb in his response to an essay by University of Virginia Professor Fred Schauer on whether the White Supremacist protest that led to mayhem and carnage (including the murder of Heather Heyer) last August should lead cities to find ways to restrict the free speech and assembly rights of protestors. That question? How do you distinguish between movements and mobs.

In his piece, Cobb attempts to argue that the difference between a movement and a mob lies with whether the goals are primal or not. From where he sits, the Unite the Right protestors were the latter because their goals are driven by racial bigotry, which makes them primal (based on tribalism that is hard-set in all of us). On that front,Ā  I would argue that he is incorrect. This is because what distinguishes movements from mobs isn’t their goals, but their organization and their intent.

All movements are primal in some way. Movements to end colonialism and oppression, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s effort to end British colonialism of India, are driven by the urge to be free. Those that oppress, such as the Nazis and other 20th-century Fascists (as well as the American White Supremacists off which they partly modeled themselves) appeal to authoritarian instincts.

Even the modern school reform movement, is driven in part by primal urges. In this case, the desire for learning as well as to protect the most-vulnerable, the latter being derivative of the maternal and paternal instincts most parents have for their children. Traditionalists, in turn, are also driven in part by the urge to protect the influence and power they have gained over time.

To dismiss the desire to act on primal instinct as either base or merely a province of mobs is to ignore the noble and ignoble feelings that drive both positive and negative social movements.

What differs a movement from a mob is organization and effort. They are intentional. Which is why what happened in Charlottesville (as well as the White Supremacist rally that happened last month in Shelbyville, Tenn.) are so troubling.

As Vice and other outlets have reported , the new-era White Supremacists behind Charlottesville spent months planning their protests before they finally descended on the Virginia college town. This included discussions on the Daily Stormer and other forums about logistics, messages, even what weapons to bring to the event. Given that they prepared for violence, White Supremacists such as Jason Kessler and Chris Cantwell expected Heyer’s murder, as well as the anticipated that their allies would brutally assault counter-protestors such as DeAndre Harris.

The Unite the Right players, in turn, are part of a larger White Supremacist movement that extends far beyond their numbers that day in Charlottesville. As Buzzfeed noted last month an investigative piece, those ideological and political ties extend to Breitbart, the media outlet controlled by Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, both of which have played key roles in sustaining the presidential campaign of the current Occupant of the White House and his administration. It also extends to President Donald Trump himself, who put White Supremacists such as Bannon on his White House staff, as well as gave comfort to the Unite the Right crowd after the carnage and mayhem by claiming that that they were “good people”.

Trump and the White Supremacist protestors, in turn, share the same intent: Official state discrimination against Black, Latino, Asian and immigrant men, women, and children. The latter advances this intent through protests, violence, media campaigns, and their own interactions with people Black and Brown. The former and his administration do so through policy, legislation, and executive branch action, all of which has been documented by this publication. In fact, the Trump Administration is merely doing under the business of the White Supremacists that support it.

Mobs don’t have tax-exempt statuses and corporate filings. Movements do.

Put simply, the new-era White SupremacistsĀ  end up in Charlottesville and Shelbyville are as intentional as any positive social movement. Nothing they do is accidental or incidental; they intend on relegating poor and minority communities . They may be the opposite of the Black Lives Matter and school reform movements of today. But the new-age White Supremacists are still a movement, one that resembles the Klu Klux Klan during its golden age of 1920s (when it counted at least two million members — ncluding eventual U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black– and actually controlled Indiana’s state government) and the collection of White Citizens Councils, Klan groups, and Southern politicians who opposed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

So all of us opposed to them, especially those within the school reform movement, must deal seriously with their intent and their organization. We must address the immorality of their beliefs and the anti-intellectualism of their ideas and proposals. Simply dismissing them as a mob, especially for the illiberal (and unacceptable) purpose of stamping out their liberty, will never work.

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