Recently, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the federal government would issue discipline guidelines to slow the rate of suspensions and expulsions in schools.
The announcement was applauded by critics of schools who believe that the higher rates for black students, which are more than three times those for white students, prove that schools have a racial agenda. The facts are blacks represent 14 percent of the American population and 49 percent of homicide victims; 93 percent of whom were killed by other blacks.
We have blamed police departments for years of profiling but have not solved the problem of higher rates of crime and the resultant incarceration for black people. The more important issues for schools, which serve students from families with high rates of poverty, are single-parent families, lack of family support for education and a lack of respect for other students, teachers and administrators.
Students who threaten teachers or other students, regardless of race, will likely experience suspensions and expulsions. Schools must maintain order and ensure safety.
While high levels of suspensions and expulsions are an issue, high rates of violence in schools is unacceptable. Schools have stepped up and solved many student problems that should have been handled by parents.
If students are hungry, the government feeds them — breakfast, lunch and snacks. If students are dirty, schools provide showers and clean clothes. If they need counseling, they receive it.
Schools teach manners and proper behavior — how to speak to others and how to practice self-discipline. They even offer classes for parents so they can understand what a good student needs at home.
If schools could just focus on academics, education would be more thorough and cost a lot less. Should schools try to deal with these problems?
Yes, but their success depends more on turning around the moral decay of the community than changing school policies. The disparity in numbers for expulsions and suspensions according to race can be partly explained by the disparity in the data for unmarried mothers from the Centers of Disease Control Report in 2012: 32.1 percent of whites are unmarried; among Hispanics, it’s 72.6 percent; and among blacks, it’s 62.6 percent.
More than 70 percent of poor families are headed by a single parent. Regardless of race, kids without fathers are more likely to do worse in school, commit crimes and engage in premarital sex.
Positive male role models are important to a child’s development. If communities could ensure two-parent families, and children could have worthy male role models, we could reduce crime and poverty, raise test scores, and reduce expulsions and suspensions.
Schools are microcosms of society. As our society decays, schools are being asked to take on more and more responsibility for problems they are ill-prepared to change.
This concern is not a lack of proper school administration, but a moral issue. Let the government attack the root of the problem and offer significant incentives to folks to marry and stay married for the sake of their children and our society.
If we want our schools and communities to do better, families must do better.