Federal Racial Discipline Quotas Create Chaos In St. Paul Schools

Katherine Kersten, The Federalist, July 29, 2016

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{snip} Just days after the last school bell rang, a dramatic uprising of teachers, parents, and school board members ousted Superintendent Valeria Silva.

Silva’s approach to school discipline sparked the revolt. Her policies, initiated in 2010, launched the St. Paul schools on a downward spiral of chaos and violence. In December 2015, Ramsey County attorney John Choi labeled the situation “a public health crisis.” In 2015, assaults on teachers in St. Paul schools reported to his office tripled compared to 2014, and were up 36 percent over the previous four-year average.

Valeria Silva

Valeria Silva

Teachers, students fear for their safety

On Silva’s watch, the city’s high schools have become menacing places where gangs of out-of-control teens prowl the halls, and “classroom invasions” by students settling private disputes are commonplace.

Tumultuous brawls are a fact of life. Today, fights that “might have been between two individuals” can grow into “melees involving up to 40 or 50 people,” according to Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesman. Roving packs often attack individuals, and police have had to use chemical irritants to break up what they call “riots.”

Teachers fear for their safety. In the last school year, a vicious student assault landed one in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. Another was punched repeatedly in the chest, while another required staples for a head wound. One high school has issued emergency whistles to teachers and assigned a guard to every floor. A teacher who was crushed into a shelf in a classroom invasion now instructs her students to use a “secret knock” to enter her classroom, according to City Pages.

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The discipline policies that gave rise to this chaos sprang from Silva’s embrace of “racial equity” ideology. In St. Paul, as across the nation, black students as a group are referred for discipline at higher rates than their peers. Silva made eliminating this racial gap a top priority.

In Silva’s view, the gap is caused by teachers’ racial bias and cultural insensitivity, not by higher rates of misconduct by black students. She mandated “white privilege” training for all district personnel, eliminated “continual willful disobedience” as a suspendable offense, and shifted many special education students with behavior problems–students who are disproportionately black–to mainstream classrooms. Now unruly kids just chat with a “behavior specialist” or are shifted to another classroom to act up again.

Silva also pressured schools to deal internally with infractions such as assault, sexual violence, and drug possession, rather than reporting student offenders to police. Her goal was to end what has been called “the school to prison pipeline” for black students. {snip}

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In November 2015, St. Paul voters overwhelmingly elected a majority of Silva opponents to the school board. Several months later, parents launched a petition demanding Silva’s resignation, and black, white, and Asian community leaders issued the same call in the Pioneer Press. Finally, on June 21, 2016, the school board announced Silva’s departure after buying out her contract at a cost of almost $800,000.

Not everyone was happy: School board member Jean O’Connell promptly resigned, protesting what she called the board’s “destructive and cynical” behavior. “We must refuse to allow the board to let up on racial-equity efforts,” she wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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