Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Fallacy of Racial Discrimination in School Discipline

Saturday, February 1, 2014, 0:00
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The use of categorization can be a delusive way for power obsessed people or groups to impose their will on others. It is a fallacy applied in the educational domain when the governments often use it for political purposes, rather than having all students “red, yellow, black, and while, all precious in God’s sight,” be expected to conform to the same discipline.

The Obama administration is urging schools to abandon what they esteem to be overly zealous discipline policies that civil rights advocates have long said lead to a school-to-prison pipeline, discriminating against black and Hispanic students. Why can’t our national leaders see that by removing the Judeo-Christian influences from public education that the prison population has more than doubled?

In American schools, black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended, according to government civil rights data collection from 2011-2012. Although black students made up fifteen percent of students in the data collection, they made up more than a third of students suspended once, forty-four percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of students expelled.

There is the zero tolerance policy in our public schools. A zero-tolerance policy in schools is a policy of punishing any infraction of a rule, regardless of accidental mistakes, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. Under this policy a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute,” while at the same time it pronounces that a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable.

The New York Times published an article, “The Obama administration speaks out against zero tolerance discipline.” It quotes Attorney General Holder as saying “routine school disciplinary infractions should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”  Most anyone would agree with this, but the question comes as to how grievous must the student misbehavior be before the transition takes place.

It has been noted by Thomas Stowell in the Townhall Daily, January 15, 2014 that: “The truly despicable intervention by Attorney General Holder is his warning to schools against discipline policies that result in a higher proportion of minority students than white students being punished.”

This should not be an issue of civil rights, but a call for civil responsibility from all races, to condemn anti-social behavior in the classroom regardless of race.  However, Holder’s and the Obama administration’s position is to establish separate realms of discipline for students according to their race.  Punitive discipline is often necessary to preserve order in the classrooms, so that hoodlums don’t make learning impossible for the other students.

The Townhall Daily article well observed that:  “The threat of federal lawsuits against schools based on punishment in respect to racial body count among students who have been disciplined means that hoodlums in the classroom seem to have a friend in Washington….But even the hoodlums can end up worse off, if lax discipline in the school lets them continue on in a way of life that usually ends up inside prison walls.”

Stowell went on to say:  “This racial body count method of determining whether there is discrimination by the schools might make sense if we were certain that there could be no differences in behavior that would explain the differences in punishment. But does any sane adult really believe that there cannot be any difference between the behavior of black boys and Asian girls, for example?” Are we going to punish Asian girls more strictly for their behavior when it is bad, as overall their behavior is usually much better in the classroom that whites or blacks?

One statement made by Stowell was that, “If we have learned nothing else after decades of socially divisive and educationally futile racial busing, it should be obvious that seating black kids next to white kids is neither necessary nor sufficient to get them a better education,” should make us all think hard!  And in the same vein, most all blacks in America are part white or Indian, so how do you determine which race category in which to place a person!

Holder really is playing politics with school discipline, instead of establishing positive school discipline. It is unconscionable, for the lack of discipline is one of the crushing handicaps in many ghetto schools. If ten percent of the students in a classroom are disruptive, disrespectful and violent, the chances of teaching the other ninety percent effectively are very low. A few disruptive students can destroy the learning environment in a classroom.

Integration is good, but in itself it has not proven to been a positive direction in education, as academic achievement has continually digressed in our public schools since it began. In fact, it can be argued that forced integration can be negative, where chosen and selected integration can be most desirable.

By seeing children as blacks and whites, rather than just as people, we have maintained the very elements of stereotyping and prejudice we have proposed to be seeking to eliminate. Reverse discrimination is a fallacy that sets different standards for one race compared to another, rather than having all playing equally on the same playing field. There is desegregation, but desegregation is not true integration!

In my seminary days I coached the first integrated “Gray-Y” sports team in the city of Atlanta at BurgessElementary School.  It was a challenge, and it was a true reward to teach those athletes responsibility, even often in the midst having to suffer racial discrimination. I taught the students I coached to pray for those who mistreated them and to play their hearts out to beat those who mistreated them on the playing field, which we generally did.

In fact, when I coached Burgess, where some of Martin Luther King’s children attended, it enabled me to speak in Martin Luther King’s church the night after he was killed. I told that congregation it was a call for us to work together for in Jesus Christ, for him “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And then I also was able to march in his burial procession across Atlanta to the college, singing out that “We shall overcome”.

As I taught in the public elementary school I had to keep a record of the race of the students I paddled.  About half my paddlings were black, although only about 20% of my students were black. I paddled the blacks for the same behavior I paddled the whites. God’s judgment from the Bible does not set racial guidelines, so why should we do so in the classrooms?

Many of my former students have thanked me for those paddlings, and many of my former black students as well as white students have come out to be true, responsible people not because of their color, but because many of our teachers cultivated responsible behavior, even if it required reinforcement with the paddle or other means.

Looking back, back when I was much younger in my first teaching experience in the public school, I recall how two black students jumped out the window and ran when I looked out into the hall to observe a ruckus. I dived out the window after them and caught them and took them to our black principal for a paddling.  I recall how one tall black ball played, much larger than me picked me over his head, when I reached to get a record covering he held after I had played a record for the class, and how I flipped him on the floor. But no fight ensued and we laughed and went on.

I recall how a teacher came into my room in panic and had me rescue a small white boy from a very large black girl, whom I held with a headlock until reinforcements came. I recall how that in another school district later on I had to jump over a desk to break up a fight between two black girls, who I took to the principal for punishment. I even taught that a “nigger” was an irresponsible black and a “honky” was an irresponsible white. These are just some of the memories.

The school where I first taught was two-thirds black, and one where the National Guard came because of racial conflict the year after I taught there. But I have a soul-chip, a block of engraved wood the black students gave to me out of appreciation for my teaching, which I prize. I sought to treat the blacks and whites equally in all ways, including punishment. There was no ruling saying we should let the blacks do behavior that we punished whites for doing!  Can you imagine the chaos, when and if teachers follow Obama’s directives?

At another school later in my teaching career a student called me out on the athletic field, as I served as duty teacher. He approached me and pulled out a gun, telling me he was going to kill me. I walked over and took the gun from him, which turned out to be a toy pistol, and I took him to the principal. The student was punished for two weeks detention, sitting in a desk in the principal’s office—which I felt was a little lax in punishment. He was white!

The instances I just mentioned were before the zero tolerance. But we read today that a school suspends a ten-year old for the pretend shooting of a bow and arrow with his fingers, or that another is suspended for pointing a “machine gun” pencil at someone. I wonder how this can be racially interpreted! However, there is a villain in the classroom, and it is a demon changing the social consciousness of our children right before our eyes.

Karl Marx said: “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite form of social consciousness.  The mode of production of material conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” (Marx, K.  –1977, The German Ideology, D. McLellan—“Karl Marx:  Selected Writings”- p 398, OxfordUniversity Press)

Zero tolerance seeks to address discipline problems, but it is inadequate and creates some huge problems. Yet, the Administration’s call to discipline the black students differently from the white students is going to be even worse than the zero tolerance ambiguities. The fallacy of racially categorizing students is a most foolish mistake to make, and when this is applied to the discipline of students, it is even more absurd than even the zero tolerance.

The American public education system, by setting up different behavior demands for different races, will sink even faster on the global scene in educational achievement. The movement suggested by our President and his Attorney General seeks to use THE FALLACY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN SCHOOL DISCIPLINE, basically for socio-political reasons, not primarily to seek to promote a better learning environment for all. The race card is a good card for many of our left wing politicians to play, and we are seeing it, but it seems no one is calling them on the use of this joker.


by Joe Renfro, Ed.D., Educational Columnist, Radio Evangelist, Retired Teacher and Pastor, 5931 West Avenue, Lavonia, Georgia 30553,  706-356-4173,


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