Discipline Disparities

Heather Mac Donald, National Review, April 3, 2014

Last week I invoked the case of a 14-year-old Brooklyn boy arrested for shooting another teenager, in making the claim that behavioral differences, not racism, drive the disparity between black and white student suspensions. The Obama administration had released its latest school-discipline data on March 21, showing that black students are suspended at three times the rate of white students. The civil-rights industry predictably greeted this information as yet more proof that schools are biased against black students. The day before the federal data were published, eighth-grader Kahton Anderson had opened fire on a Brooklyn bus when several members of a rival “crew” (a localized mini-gang) got on; an innocent 39-year-old father was fatally shot in the head.

Anderson was relevant to the school-discipline debate as an emblem of the pathological urban culture that is manifested both in the black crime rate and in classroom misbehavior. “The chance,” I wrote last week, that Anderson was “a model pupil, quietly paying attention in class and not disturbing his fellow students and teacher, was close to zero.” That statement proved prescient. A fuller picture of Anderson’s school behavior is now in. It is exactly what one would expect.

According to the New York Times, Anderson

was frequently in trouble. Sometimes it was for violating the school’s uniform code or disrespectful chatter in class. . . . Sometimes it was worse: He had a sealed arrest from 2011, and often, high-school-age members of a crew students knew as “R&B” or “RB’z”–the initials stand for “Rich Boys”–loitered outside the school, waiting to fight him.

About three weeks after he got into a fight near school last year, he was transferred to Elijah Stroud Middle School in Crown Heights. . . .

But he seemed to do no better at Elijah Stroud, where he had been suspended from the early fall until very recently . . . Under Education Department policy, only students with serious infractions, such as injuring or trying to injure other students or teachers, can be suspended for more than 10 days.

All fall and winter, he had a more consuming preoccupation than school or even basketball: his crew’s escalating war with a rival group of teenage boys.

Anderson is a case study in everything that the civil-rights complex assiduously denies. Naturally, he was raised by a single mother. Despite the inevitable excuse that his criminality is the result of poverty, he has a taste for designer clothing, replenishing his supply of Air Jordans and Reeboks on a frequent, sometimes monthly, basis. And Anderson is just the tip of the iceberg. He is surrounded by numerous other Kahton Andersons, including the fellow members of his crew, the Stack Money Goons, dedicated to obtaining money by any means available; the members of the Goons’ rival crew, the Twan Family, named in honor of a 17-year-old who was fatally shot while robbing an off-duty police officer; and members of dozens of other crews and gangs that form in inner-city neighborhoods in the absence of married fathers raising their children. The bus shooting was hardly unusual. Gunfire among these warring crews is routine; one crew member was shot to death last July. And as in Kahton’s case, the lack of impulse control that results in such mindless violence on the streets unavoidably shows up in the classroom as well. It defies common sense that a group with such high rates of lawlessness outside school would display model behavior inside school. Multiply Anderson’s homicide several-hundred-fold, and you get the nearly ten to one disparity between the murder rate among 14- to 17-year-old black males and that of their white and Hispanic male peers combined. Multiply his classroom infractions several-hundred-thousand-fold, and you get the three-to-one suspension disparity that so agitates the civil-rights and education establishments. (A forthcoming study by University of Cincinnati criminologist John Paul Wright [you can read the PDF file here] confirms the obvious: The racial gap in suspensions is completely accounted for by students’ prior problem behavior.)


The Anderson shooting also rebuts a host of other pseudo-racism memes, such as the claim that the New York Police Department’s racially skewed stop-question-and-frisk statistics demonstrate departmental bias against blacks. To the contrary, it is shooting wars between crews like Anderson’s, and other inner-city crime waves, that determine police deployment and tactics. If middle-schoolers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side were shooting each other as middle-schoolers do in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the NYPD would be out in force there as well, looking for suspicious behavior that could indicate a crime about to happen. Here’s news for the civil-rights industry: Such crew violence as Anderson’s is virtually exclusively a black and Hispanic phenomenon. Ninety-eight percent of all shootings in New York City are committed by blacks and Hispanics; whites and Asians commit 2 percent. {snip}

The only surprising thing about Anderson’s story is that he had been disciplined at all, even if ineffectively. Thanks to the constant pressure from the Obama administration and the civil-rights establishment, the New York City school system, like so many others, has stripped teachers of vast swaths of their disciplinary powers. {snip}

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