Pre-K Prejudice? Ctd

Several readers are skeptical over the conclusions drawn here:

We know that by preschool differences in math and reading skills emerge between white and African-American students, so why shouldn’t we expect the same for behavioral issues? How does this research address the possibility that differences in home experience may create authentic differences in school behavior? Does this research tell us that two kids who commit the same offense will receive different punishments based on race? By immediately labeling this as “prejudice” we are imposing a set of assumptions. Don’t we owe these students a more rigorous approach to the problem?

Another is more direct:

I can’t be the only one who realizes that the widely-reported statistics from the DOE’s Civil Rights Data Collection are not, in fact, persuasive evidence of prejudice or discrimination. A glaringly obvious yet unexplored possibility is that the minority students in the data are simply engaging in more actions requiring punishment than their white counterparts. Full stop.

Why would this be so?

The possibilities are numerous, but I suspect socio-economic status and family environment are the main culprits. The federal studies in question don’t adjust for those factors.

Just to be clear: I’m well aware of white privilege and the many economic, social, and legal barriers that prevent full equality in modern society, but simply saying “unequal outcome = racism” is bogus. And I think in this context it is particularly absurd coming from the Department of Education. There are plenty of areas where statistics have uncovered racially biased enforcement of rules. I’m thinking particularly about marijuana arrests, where it’s clear that rates of use are pretty much the same everywhere but minorities – and black people in particular – are being singled out for punishment. Those are the kinds of statistics that would, for me, evidence racially-motivated punishment in the school context.

So we need to compare apples to apples. How often are the different ethnic groups engaging in behavior for which suspension is a possible punishment? If white students were getting into on-campus fights at the same rate as minority students but being suspended only one-third as often, that would be clear evidence of discrimination. Perhaps an enterprising Dish reader can find a study showing disparate punishment outcomes despite identical behavior. Until then, your readers need to recognize the crummy and possibly misleading nature of these statistics.

Another gets very anecdotal, with a second-hand source:

When my daughter was in a small suburban elementary school, every black male in her grade of 120 students was in trouble to one extent or another. Her principal told me, and I’m paraphrasing, “Every black male student in this school is under some form of corrective counseling. Every student currently under escalated counseling in this school is a black male.”

One called his teacher a bitch. Expelled. Another refused to take his seat and stop talking, ever. Removed from regular schooling. All of them, every single one – so I was told, anyway – used foul language openly. Most were removed to remedial facilities on the second or third foul language offense. There were only one or two black male students left in regular classes and they were on thin ice, I was told.

The school principal told me that the fathers – and here we’re talking degreed professionals, for the most part, including executives and at least one lawyer as recall – were responsible for the behavior. During counseling sessions, some of the mothers expressed outrage, one screaming at the father “I hope you’re satisfied; you’re ruining his life and he’s only in first grade!” One of the mothers told her, “It’s not the school. It’s a black-male thing nowadays, with black fathers encouraging sons to be black and aggressively stand their ground in school.”

I found it interesting that the principal told me that “this is all new, in recent years”. And that there was little or no pushback or denial from the parents about the behavior. No lawsuits or protests. Also no similar behavior at all from black female students, who seemed as normal and well-adjusted as their white and Hispanic counterparts.