Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went on CBS’s “60 Minutes” with Lesley Stahl on Sunday night to talk about the Obama-era school discipline reform policy that is now under review, as well as a number of other school reforms she planning on in the future, reports The Daily Caller.
Stahl asks how DeVos plans on changing the school discipline policies to be less racist and when Stahl tries to push back on DeVos’ statement the secretary pushes back herself.
“We are studying that rule. We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. And all students means all students,” DeVos told Stahl.
Stahl reacted, “Yeah but let’s say there’s a disruption in the classroom and a bunch of whites kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.”
DeVos responded, “Arguably, all of these issues or all of this issue comes down to individual kids.”
DeVos replied, “It does come down to individual kids. And–often comes down to–I am committed to making sure that students have the opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to their learning.”
Stahl asked, “Do you see this disproportion in discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?”
“We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have the opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments,” said DeVos.
School disciplinary reform from the 2013 Obama Department of Education policy that intended to prevent minority students from being arrested in public schools for misdemeanor violations and implemented in the school district is said to have possibly contributed to the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting las month.
“The school has the ability under certain circumstances not to call the police, not to get the police involved on misdemeanor offenses and take care of it within the school. It’s an excellent program,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Feb. 25, “It’s helping many, many people. What this program does is not put a person at 14, 15, 16 years old into the criminal justice system.”
Known as a PROMISE agreement, Broward County struck a deal with the Department of Education that ceased school-based arrests based on “minor misbehavior.” The policy aimed to “reduce exclusionary disciplinary practices while implementing prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent or at-risk.”
These “minor misbehavior” can include alcohol consumption, drug-related abuses, bullying, harassment, and assault. Although the number of student arrests dropped 63 percent in the 2015-2016 school year in Broward, that is only because law enforcement was turning a blind eye to escalating problems to keep their arrest numbers down.
However, more evidence has emerged showing accused Stoneman Douglas Shooter Nikolas Cruz was reported to have multiple red flags raised about him over the years that became so serious, by high school some teachers did not want to be in a classroom alone with him, The Boston Globe reported.
According to The Miami Herald, as a response to Cruz’s escalating emotionally violent behavior, in 2014 he was sent to an alternative schooling facility for troubled youth, where he revealed to a therapist that he envisioned himself in a dream covered in human blood.
Cruz did not remain in this setting, though. He was transferred back to Marjory Stoneman in 2016 and expelled one year later.
Even despite tips give to the FBI about Cruz’s behavior, law enforcement never intervened with Cruz and now people are citing the Obama-era policy that helped hide Cruz’s behavior.
Democrats on Capitol Hill claim the Obama-era policy “had nothing to do with” the Cruz shooting. Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Health Education Labor and Pension Committee said, “The school discipline processes had nothing to do with why law enforcement didn’t intervene.”
“I strongly urged the Secretary to maintain the 2014 School Discipline Guidance Package. States and school districts need the tools and resources provided by this guidance package to ensure compliance with federal education and civil rights laws which require that they identify and address any racial bias in discipline policies and practices,” Scott said in a statement at the time.