Conservative school reformer Mike Petrilli has criticized the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and its recent agreement to settle a complaint against the Oklahoma City Public School District for racially disparate suspension rates.
Petrilli cites the OCR’s finding that, “African American students are 62 percent more likely to be given in-school suspensions in Oklahoma City than are white students.” He adds that African Americans in Oklahoma City are three times likelier to be poor than whites. Petrilli concludes:
Oklahoma City will suspend fewer students, possibly putting student learning and safety at risk, because nobody was willing to challenge the federal government’s questionable assumptions. Oklahoma politicians were up in arms over the feds’ heavy-handedness on the Common Core; why are they so willing to be pushed around on student discipline?
Petrilli is half right in criticizing the OKCPS suspensions and the OCR, but he seems unaware of how complex these issues are. Below is just one example of how I learned how complicated the process of creating safe and orderly schools is.