Arnold Ahlert / February 26, 2018

Progressive Policies Put Schools at Risk

Every serious problem this nation has can be tied to the failing state of our public schools.

Amidst the media-orchestrated hysteria emanating from those who believe gun control will solve America’s mass shooting problem, one of the principal questions being asked is whether children have the right to attend school without fearing for their lives. Tragically, for a nation that has abided progressive ideology for far too long, it’s the wrong question. The more accurate question: How much danger is one willing to put one’s child in to satisfy progressive orthodoxy?

As the Miami Herald reveals, the Florida killer had widely recognized behavioral problems. “Teachers and other students said he kicked doors, cursed at teachers, fought with and threatened classmates and brought a backpack with bullets to school,” the paper reported. “He collected a string of discipline for profanity, disobedience, insubordination, and disruption.”

How did the system handle him? In 2014, administrators transferred him to a school for children with emotional disabilities. Two years later, they changed course and put him back in Marjory Stoneman Douglas. A year later, he was banished again for disciplinary reasons, and ended up being “toggled between three other alternative placements,” as the Herald puts it.

Notice the missing element here — he was never expelled. “Under federal law, [he] had a right to a ‘free and appropriate’ education at a public school near him,” the paper explains. “His classmates had a right to an education free of fear. Their rights often collided.”

Does this mean expulsion no longer exists? According to, schools can expel a student for a number of reasons. In fact, the Gun-Free Schools Act requires any student bringing a gun to a school to be expelled for a minimum of one year. Moreover, states can decide what other types of misconduct may precipitate expulsion, including distributing medication, harassing or bullying other students, or continually defying teachers.

The catch? The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities in programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government. Section 504 requires the aforementioned “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) be provided to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction — regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

Furthermore, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that education to take place in the “least restrictive environment” possible. It also provides special protections for disabled students facing expulsion, requiring school officials to follow special procedures that include a hearing to determine if the misconduct was directly related to the student’s disability. If that is the case, a special education team must develop, or modify, a behavioral intervention plan.

With regard to violent students like the perpetrator in Parkland, these laws are problematic. Yet they are only half the problem. A 2017 column by Jeffery Benzing addressed the other half, noting that Broward County “used to rank No. 1 at sending students to their state’s juvenile justice system,” he explained. “The stats troubled Broward County leaders, and they responded with a bold solution: Lower arrests by not making arrests.”

Broward compiled a list of 12 misdemeanor offenses no longer requiring police notification. They included criminal mischief, vandalism and non-violent incidents involving alcohol, marijuana or drug paraphernalia. The program was championed as a move away from a “zero tolerance” policy critics labeled a “school to prison pipeline.”

It gets worse. “One particular motivation behind programs like Broward County’s was the pressure from multiple sources to reduce the statistical disparity between black and Hispanic student arrests on one hand and white and Asian student arrests on the other,” reveals columnist Jack Cashill. Based solely on his last name, the Parkland killer “became a statistical Hispanic,” Cashill adds. “As such, authorities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland had every reason not to report his troubling and likely criminal behavior to the police.”

Broward wasn’t the only county under pressure. In 2014, the Obama administration sent out a Dear Colleague letter whose subject was the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline. Issued by the DOJ and the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, the letter made it clear that an aggressive “disparate impact” approach would be taken with regard to disciplining minority students.

In short, schools that meted out a “disproportionate number” of disciplinary measures to minority students, relative to their percentage of the school population, could be charged with discrimination under Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Thus, the Obama administration and Broward County officials made sure many kids couldn’t even be disciplined, much less arrested, for egregious behavior.

That “see no evil if its statistically problematic” approach was heartily embraced by a thoroughly politicized Broward County Sheriff’s Department, whose conduct before and after the shooting was nothing short of appalling. But that didn’t stop Sheriff Scott Israel from showing up at CNN’s NRA bash-fest in a despicable attempt to the shift the blame from his department’s criminal incompetence to guns — wholly oblivious to the irony that no better case for self-defense could be made than his own department’s cowardice and ineptitude.

Israel needs to be fired, ASAP.

The bigger picture? America no longer has reform schools where youthful offenders were once sent instead of prison. We have “alternative schools,” along with efforts to maintain all but the most incorrigible students at home. We also have court-monitored probation, curfews and other programs.

All of them appear to have one overriding concern: don’t stigmatize anyone.

Yet at what point does the attempt to avoid stigmatizing a child make it clear to the same child that despicable behavior doesn’t engender serious consequences?

“This is a systemic problem we have that isn’t about blaming one agency or the other,” insisted Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

How about blaming an ideology, Mr. Runcie? Beginning in the 1960s, progressives assured Americans they could “do their own thing,” and that “God is dead.” While religious leaders receded, lawyers and therapists stepped up. “Good and evil” became “legal and illegal,” or “well and unwell.”

In the process, shame and objective truth were obliterated.

Thus, it is unsurprising that nothing has been more shameless and less truthful than the avalanche of progressive virtue-signaling with regard to gun control.

America desperately needs culture control. But while cultural degradation continues to metastasize, the nation needs short-term and long term solutions for protecting vulnerable school children.

Short-term, we need armed, qualified security guards and/or teachers at every school in the nation. Those who disagree are progressive fantasists who live in a dream world. In the real world, they must be ignored.

Long-term solutions? The restoration of a public school system where civics and virtue are integral parts of the curriculum. One where disciplinary procedures are clear and apply equally to everyone. One where respect for teachers is paramount, and one where children are taught how to think, not what to think.

Every serious problem this nation has can be tied to the failing state of our public schools. And when those schools seek to blame the parents for those failures, they need reminding that they “educated” the parents — and the politicians and the celebrities, etc., etc. — as well.

A fish may rot from the head down, but a culture rots from the roots up. It’s time to root progressive ideology out of our public schools.

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