America’s public schools are no longer safe thanks to “equity” anti-discipline policies that embolden aggressors at the expense of their victims.
Diego Stolz, a precious 13-year old boy from California, is the latest victim.
Though early testimonies reveal a teacher, classmates, Stolz, and his family reported ongoing bullying to school administrators, Stolz’s assailants persisted. Video evidence shows two boys heartlessly punching Stolz, and after his head hits a concrete pillar, one attacker plows in mercilessly for a final blow.
Stolz died at the hands of those brutal classmates who’d allegedly been tormenting him for a year.
As a teacher and mother, my blood boils over this complete failure to prevent Stolz’s senseless death and to provide boundaries and discipline to protect all children, including the delinquents who desperately need redemption.
So, who’s behind this nightmare?
Unions, their allies, and the politicians they control have for years been surreptitiously pushing lenient discipline policies nationwide. Their first major success was when the Obama administration sent its “Dear Colleague Letter” to school administrators, dangling financial rewards for schools that lowered suspension rates. Motivated by money, schools stopped administering consequences for unruly behaviors — even violence! They replaced effective discipline with “Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports” (or, as teachers know it, PBIS) and “Restorative Justice” practices.
So-called experts claim lenient “equity” policies will help end the “school-to-prison pipeline” and provide “Restorative Justice” for children of color and special needs students.
The trouble is, they’re wrong.
Andy Pollack, the father of Parkland massacre victim Meadow, wrote a book called Why Meadow Died. He and co-author Max Eden, an education expert at the Manhattan Institute, prove leniency policies are the reason the Parkland shooter (whose violent behavior led to a “special needs” label) was given access to his victims. The policies incentivize administrators to ignore pernicious behaviors that warrant suspension, expulsion, or police involvement, allowing special needs students such as the Parkland shooter to go unsupported and undetected.
Now, 17 people are dead, and the shooter will likely spend his life behind bars.
You’d think all the death and despair would give leftist unions and their politicians pause. Instead, they’ve doubled down.
They skewered Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when she worked to terminate Obama-era equity policies at the federal level. While convincing teachers that DeVos is evil, unions staunchly support legislators who promote the anti-discipline policies at local and state levels.
Union-funded Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed SB419, amending the California education code to prohibit public and charter schools from suspending K-8 students for “willfully defying the valid authority of those school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”
Translation: California children in open defiance of their teachers cannot be suspended.
The California Teachers’ Association did not oppose Newsom’s leniency bill, and why would they? Newsom happily does the unions’ bidding in exchange for millions in political donationsand free campaign workers. The CTA tells teachers they’re leery of leniency policies, but a representative of state Sen. Nancy Skinner (the law’s author) admitted to a teacher friend of mine that the CTA had been “working with us from the beginning.” Union resolutions make it clear they’re behind the ideology.
Yet, every local teacher poll ever taken nationwide shows overwhelming opposition to these policies. Teachers and parents beware — unions are turning schools into war zones.
My friend Aaron Benner taught in one of these war zones. Unbeknownst to Benner and his colleagues, their union slipped the “racial equity” disciplinary approach into their teaching contract in Saint Paul Public Schools. The new policy focused on reducing suspensions for students of color even when their violent or disrespectful behaviors merited commonsense discipline.
With union support, Saint Paul Public Schools worked with the San Francisco-based company “Pacific Educational Group” to weed out “systemic racism.” Instead of holding all students to high behavioral standards, the district changed focus to “Courageous Conversations.” Pacific Educational Group’s training was alarming. Aaron informed me every employee underwent required training to “discover how your white privilege and your white biases are hampering black students’ learning.”
There’s one glaringly obvious problem with these white privilege trainings: Benner is black!
But white teachers are accused, thanks to bigoted policies, and dangerous behaviors are ignored. It’s no wonder Benner asserts, “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of, and the union supports it. I don’t support it. It’s not working.”
After extreme violence broke out, Benner and four colleagues addressed the school board, but the teachers were labeled anti-racial equity, racist, and uncaring.
That’s how loving teachers are treated by union-controlled school boards, administrators, and politicians. Behind our backs, our dastardly unions direct every underhanded move.
Why? Because unions benefit from the chaos.
A Saint Paul Public Schools teacher was so brutally attacked by a student, he has a permanent brain injury and will never teach again. Benner told me the unions never protected the teacher. Instead: “They used him as a bargaining chip. They used his injury to gain money; to bring in more school nurses and counselors; more workers who have to pay dues to the union.”
And there’s the rub.
In order to gain more wealth and push their leftist agenda, unions and the politicians they influence have handed over control of the classroom to the most disruptive students. Now teachers who want to teach, parents who crave safety, and students who want to learn are held hostage by their new overlords: willfully defiant kids.
As Benner, Pollack, and Stolz’s family can testify, the consequences are staggering.
Rebecca Friedrichs is the founder of For Kids & Country, author of Standing Up to Goliath, and a 28-year public school teacher who led the fight against the divisive tactics, politics, and corruption of teachers’ unions as lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v CTA. Her Supreme Court case paved the way for a precedent-setting ruling which freed all public sector employees from forced unionism. Portions of this piece are excerpted from her book.