A Renaissance for School Violence

While all eyes have been focused on the "stop and frisk" debate in New York, hardly any attention has been paid to the rewriting of school discipline procedures. When it comes to anti-social behavior, zero tolerance is out and therapeutic intervention is in.
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Get ready for the coming eruption of school violence.

While all eyes have been focused on the "stop and frisk" debate in New York, hardly any attention has been paid to the rewriting of school discipline procedures that are certain to result in a spike in schoolhouse disruptions.

When it comes to anti-social behavior, zero tolerance is out and therapeutic intervention is in.

A recent study claimed that the more you place police in schools to make them safer, the more the minority arrest numbers go up.

This new wisdom posits that the reason a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics are incarcerated is attributable to the disparate number of blacks and Hispanics being suspended from school.

This policy shift comes at the behest of the Justice Department and the Department of Education in Washington.

This theory has a name all its own, "From The Schoolhouse to the Jailhouse." You see, instead of socializing kids, suspensions are somehow making them worse. I like to call it "the school made me do it" excuse. School systems countrywide have rewritten their discipline codes to be more therapeutic and less punitive in order to reflect this position.

A hint of things to come was recently reported in Buffalo, N.Y., when it was learned that a 14-year-old student who shot and killed a 16-year-old on July 6, had brought his gun to school to show it off in April. There was no arrest and no suspension.

Today, New York's official response has been to reduce the number of suspensions, summonses, and arrests handed out to students.

Chancellor Walcott recently bragged that the schools Young Men's Initiative reduced suspensions by 22 percent and arrests by 44 percent, and attributed it to alternate dispute resolution and expanded mentoring.

What we are witnessing is a complete reversal of Mayor Bloomberg's "Impact" policy that promised a cop for every kid in school if that's what it took to make the school safe.

Not to be outdone, Comptroller John Liu, who is running for mayor, has just issued a report calling for even more guidance counselors and fewer suspensions at the middle school level to lower the arrest and dropout rates of black and Latino students.

Just how many guidance counselors it will take to get students to stop using expletives as part of their everyday vocabulary, exhibit self-control in a classroom setting, and refrain from cursing teachers or engaging in violence is anybody's guess.

Students who persistently engage in this kind of behavior will suffer no consequences. What's more, school administrators have every incentive to minimize an incident and avoid being branded as either racially insensitive or out of sync with school policy.

A new generation of public school students will pass through the school system without the knowledge they are even engaging in anti-social behavior.

When these patterns of behavior spill into the streets, as it most certainly shall, expect the "experts" to come up with another specious explanation for its occurrence.

No particular race or ethnicity has a monopoly on anti-social behavior. Charles Murray's recent book, Coming Apart, chronicled the same litany of issues among segments of white America that his research focused on.

The common denominator is the breakdown of family life, as we once knew it.

If children have no parental structure to socialize them, then the next place to inculcate cultural norms are our schools. If schools are prevented from defining behavioral norms, then it's the police who become the last line of defense.

But police are not social workers. When policies like "stop and frisk" become part of the urban landscape because there is a demand for a Draconian response to street crime, everybody loses.

Who wants to live in a city that requires close to 10 percent of the population to undergo stop and frisk each year? If this is to be the new normal then despite the rise in tourism and gentrification in certain urban pockets, New York's quality of life is deteriorating not improving

Avoiding criminalizing student misbehavior is often prudent. But pretending that deviant behavior is normal is folly. Simply put, if the school can't teach and enforce proper conduct in civil society within the schoolhouse, then a more restrictive authoritarian response is sure to follow.

The belief that the schoolhouse can be endlessly re-sculpted like Play-Doh by elites who never pay any price for their misbegotten whimsy, is steadily unraveling public education and our cities.

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