REP. KATHERINE CLARK, A Democrat from Massachusetts, is calling for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to resign, saying she used "racist research" from an academic considered well outside the mainstream as a justification for revoking Obama-era school discipline guidance.
"What Betsy DeVos did that I object to and find disgusting is she rescinded civil rights policy and cherry-picked racist research to back it up," Clark said Monday morning on MSNBC.
"What she did was roll back Obama-era protections for children of color who we know are disciplined at far greater rates than their white peers," she said. "And she backed it up with research that says this isn't because of institutional racism, this isn't because of any of that. It's because of who these children are. It's because black children are just temperamentally different. They come to school with behavioral problems and they import them into the classrooms."
At issue is guidance from the previous administration aimed at stemming the school-to-prison pipeline by prodding schools to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, especially for students of color, who receive disciplinary actions at disproportionately high rates.
"The Secretary rescinded this guidance months ago because she heard repeatedly that it wasn't working for students or for teachers," Liz Hill, press secretary for the Department of Education, said in a statement. "For the Congresswoman to show up today and try to grab headlines is nothing more than political opportunism at its worst."
"Secretary DeVos always has and always will fight to make sure every student is treated like an individual and has the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is safe and nurturing," Hill said.
The call for the secretary's resignation comes just days after Clark pressed DeVos on her decision to use what she characterized as "racist research" to bolster the controversial policy reversal during a congressional hearing last week, which U.S. News was the first to report.
In the study, researchers argue that the high discipline discrepancy rates between black and white students are "likely produced by pre-existing behavioral problems of youth that are imported into the classroom, that cause classroom disruptions, and that trigger disciplinary measures by teachers and school officials."
The research was published in the Journal of Criminal Justice by John Paul Wright, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, and four others. Reached by phone last week, Wright, who is the lead author of the report, said he was not aware that DeVos used his research to bolster the decision to rescind the discipline guidance.
Wright, who identifies on Twitter as a "stoic, masculine, conservative male who loves free speech" and considers himself an "accidental academic," has written at length about the liberal tilt in criminology, which he characterizes as widespread and overly focused on social justice issues as a solution. He is credited with reigniting interest in using genetics and biology to explain criminal behavior and has written at length about the pushback he gets for it.
Wright's research is considered legitimate in academic circles. He uses popular, robust federal datasets for much of his work and has been published more than 200 times.
But his work also raises red flags for many who say it ignores implicit bias, which speaks to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect how people act or make decisions unconsciously – the major concern about why students of color are disciplined at disproportionately high rates. Those who focus on school discipline are quick to note that, yes, the experiences students come into school with matter, but what happens in a school matters, too.
"This is, for an administration whose hallmark is racist and outrageous policies, this really does stand out to me as something that we can't just say, 'It's another day in the Trump Administration,'" Clark says. "They keep telling us who they are and we have to believe them."
Original story here.