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article imageOp-Ed: Tucson School District Creates Race-Based Discipline System

By Johnny Simpson     Sep 21, 2009 in Politics
According to a new report from the Arizona Republic, the Tucson Unified School District is adopting a two-tiered race-based system of administering discipline to all its students: one for African-Americans and Hispanics, and one for everyone else.
Mr. Doug McEachern of the Arizona Republic reported on a startling policy adopted by the Tucson Unified School District that appears to create a discriminatory disciplinary system, one based not on which student committed what offense, but whether the student is a member of a recognized minority group.
Despite Mr. McEachern's disturbing perspective of the school district's new policy, his report wasn't entirely convincing to me. So, to verify Mr. McEachern's stunning claims, I searched out and reviewed a .pdf copy of the TUSD's 52-page "Post-Unitary Status Plan." I have provided key excerpts from that .pdf file so that you may fully understand its troubling nature.
The following excerpt, which Mr. McEachern cites in his report, is from page 23:
"Restorative School Culture and Climate"
C. Action Plan
1. School data that show disparities in suspension/expulsion rates will be examined in detail for root causes. Special attention will be dedicated to data regarding African American and Hispanic students.
2. The assistant superintendent and director, or both, will receive monthlysuspension/expulsion data and will confer with the school about action steps to be taken to address disparities.
3. The Equity Team will ensure that disciplinary policies focus on improving students’ future behavior, rather than inflicting punishment, and that they represent a commitment to social justice for all students.
If that isn't conclusive enough for you, here are TUSD's stated goals for that policy from page 26:
3. Expected Outcome
*A decrease in student discipline referrals in school year 2009–2010 and thereafter, especially with regard to African American and Hispanic students.
Goal 2: The district will reduce the disproportionate number of suspensions of African American and Hispanic students.
Race is thematic throughout. You can read more for yourselves at the .pdf link above. The really troubling questions here are, given the TUSD's stated goals of minimizing the negative statistics of disciplinary action vis-a-vis African-American and Hispanic students, could this policy incentivize TUSD administrators and teachers to minimize, downplay or cover up even egregious disciplinary violations by minority offenders?
Or failing that, to inflate, exaggerate or overblow the frequency and severity of disciplinary violations by non-minority students in order for the numbers to meet their objectives? Perhaps even fluff the statistics to make the numbers fit? And how would this all affect the educational climate for non-minority students?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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