The Clover Park School District in the state of Washington has implemented a “culturally responsive” school discipline policy that grants harsher punishment to white students over that of other races. This was adopted in the name of equitable educational opportunities that are gaining favor in public schools across the area. This measure comes with much debate over whether judging students by their race, heritage, or color will help further equality, or will only create more division.
During a heated board meeting debate, Legislative Representative for the board, Anthony Veliz worked to explain how this would manifest. He described that stealing a slice of pizza is only wrong to some cultures, whereas it is encouraged by others, and so how each student is punished should be based on their culture, not the crime. In essence, he is defending the excuse of crime for some students solely based on their race and skin color, as opposed to treating every student by the same standards. This form of school discipline comes at a crucial time in education politics where staffing shortages are widespread and enrollment continues to decline.
Teachers and parents who oppose such policies fear that this is exactly why so many people warned against teaching ideologies like Critical Race Theory. This controversial teaching focuses on equity instead of equality because equity is based on producing equal outcomes — regardless of effort — while equality is focused on offering everyone the same opportunity and allowing their actions to determine the outcome. By basing school discipline on student’s color, the board is arguably implementing discrimination.
What’s more, white students, who are to be punished more harshly than any other demographic, are actually a minority in this specific district. 35% of students at the Clover Leaf School District are Hispanic, whereas white students only make up 28%. So this school discipline policy offers a larger advantage to the majority race while also punishing already outnumbered students who make up a diverse school population.
Looking into the school’s Equity Policy, it proudly declares that the school board has been thoroughly trained on the subject of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and drafted a guide to be shared. It notes that they are committed to ensuring that each person is valued, but how can white students feel valued when they are to be more harshly punished — through the new school discipline standards — for doing the same thing as their peers who look different than them? To top all of this off, the policy goes on to affirm that they are not teaching Critical Race Theory, but whether they are specifically following the controversial doctrine or not, the philosophy is the same.
Adopting discriminatory school discipline measures, no matter who is being discriminated against is in direct violation of the United States Constitution. Teachers, parents, and students who oppose the disparity will either be forced to accept the racist changes, seek legal action, or leave the district altogether. Regardless of what decisions these individuals make, the state of Washington’s education system is already failing students and they are the ones who experience the full effects of these changes.