Students of all races suffer
This piece originally appeared in slightly different form in the Wisconsin State Journal 11-21-21.
Expelling the four high school resource police officers — all minority race — in summer 2020 was only the most visible trophy in Madison’s campaign to abolish discipline, itself.
Under Jennifer Cheatham, the MMSD district decided “to embrace a restorative and progressive approach, one that aims to keep students in school” — no matter what. Safe to say it failed when one-third of the student body at East high school found it prudent to shelter at home rather than risk injury in student fights and the police tear gas required to quell them.
The district’s behavior education plan admits Madison schools are experimenting on students with critical race theory. “Six years ago we made a major shift … We took a step into uncharted territory. .. A zero policy toward discipline … was having a disproportionate and negative effect on students of color.” (Indeed, the school board this autumn outright banned suspensions through fifth grade.) Result? More trouble.
MMSD reported 2,081 “behavior incidents” to the WI Department of Public Instruction for school year 2019-20 compared to 2,023 in 2016-17 despite reduced enrollment. More concerning, the nature of those offenses are more serious: 863 assaults in 2019-20 compared to 72 just three years earlier. More than twice as many weapon offenses.
MMSD behavior incidents
|Drugs and Alcohol||75||16|
|Other School Rule Violations||684||1,756|
Yet students of color continue to be disproportionately disciplined. “The simple fact is this: black boys do commit more violent offenses in public schools than other kids,” acknowledges John McWhorter, in his book Woke Racism.
You want “equity”? According to MMSD data from 2017-18, 59% of disciplinary actions were taken against boys, even though they account for 49% of enrollment. To play their game: Why are Madison schools biased against boys? Professor McWhorter, himself black, argues:
To insist that bigotry is the only possible reason for suspending more black boys than white boys, is to espouse harming black students [who are left] not only improperly educated but beaten up.
Trouble at school? School district teachers and staff must navigate a 111-page school safety plan. Its flow chart is no help; it’s a bewildering corn maze of 23 possible action steps that begin with “Notify Central Office.” Try to find “call the cops” despite the mandate of state law to report serious threats.
Time and again, the school district pulls the rug out from under disciplinarians. The most tragic example is the white “positive behavior coach” beaten by an unruly black student at Whitehorse middle school in 2019. He did everything by the book. He still got the hook.
Blaska is not running
Three years ago, Blaska ran against Ali Muldrow, now president of the school board. It’s time for someone else to step up. All that is required is a little courage and a lot of common sense.
In Madison, principals do not run their schools; teachers cannot control their classrooms. They are second-guessed by the suits at Doyle administration building. The school board couldn’t maintain order at its own meetings. Freedom Inc. shut down its 2018 annual budget meeting in its campaign to intimidate members into defunding the police.
This Woke attitude manifests itself in the larger community; young predators roam the streets after jumping bail on multiple signature bonds — like Katoine Richardson and this guy.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Discipline is crucial to success. Discipline is mastering a skill, finishing an assignment, peaceably resolving disputes. We should not be race-shamed from teaching that precious skill to our children.