After Florida’s school shooting, conservative commentators seized on an unlikely target: an Obama-era guidance document that sought to rein in the suspensions and expulsions of minority students. Black students have never been the culprits in mass shootings nor have minority schools been the targets. The argument was that any relaxation of disciplinary efforts could let a killer slip through the cracks, the New York Times reports. This week, President Trump said that the school safety commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would examine the “repeal of the Obama administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned whether the guidance allowed shooter Nikolas Cruz to evade law enforcement and carry out the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High. To civil rights groups, connecting an action to help minority students with mass killings in suburban schools amounted to burdening black children with a largely white scourge. Cruz is white, and far from evading school disciplinary procedures, he had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas. The Florida program in question, called Promise, has been successful in reducing disciplinary referrals and student-based arrests in Broward County, where Stoneman Douglas is located. “The removal of this component, combined with the possibility of armed teachers in our schools, sets the stage for transforming our schools into prisons,” the NAACP said. Long before the attack in Parkland, Fl., the 2014 discipline guidelines, which encouraged schools to examine their discipline disparities and to take stock of discriminatory policies, were on DeVos’s radar. Conservatives were citing the Trump administration’s effort to rein in federal overreach to reverse policies designed to protect against what the Obama administration had seen as discriminatory practices.