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April 6, 2018

I’M SHOCKED, SHOCKED, TO FIND GOVERNMENT RESEARCH CONFIRMS WHAT WE ALREADY KNEW: A GAO report finds that boys are disciplined more often than girls in school. It also finds that African-American students are disciplined more often than white students and that whites are disciplined at higher rates than Asian Americans.  Of course, the NYT covers it with an utterly misleading headline “Government Watchdog Finds Racial Bias in School Discipline.”

Here’s what the NYT didn’t say: Just a few days ago, another government report showed that African-American students SELF-REPORT that they have been in a physical fight on school property at a rate MORE THAN TWICE the white rate.  Overwhelmingly, the aggregate disparities in school discipline are the result of differing rates of misbehavior, not bias.

Another non-surprise, surprise: The GAO report also found that students with disabilities are disciplined at higher rates than non-disabled students. But schools DEFINE behavioral problems as “disabilities.” Finding that students with disabilities are disciplined at higher rates than non-disabled students is equivalent to finding that students who misbehave a lot get disciplined a lot. If you are thinking of students in wheel chairs when you hear statistics of this kind, you are misunderstanding what’s driving the issue.

Federalizing school discipline policy is a mistake. It’s hard to think of an issue that is less likely to benefit from the intervention of bureaucrats.