Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Less rule enforcement leads to increased rule breaking

This is the first empirical evidence I have seen on this issue. Several years ago there was an Administration push to reduce public school discipline because there were racial disparities in such punishments as school suspensions. The Administration argued that these disparities arose due to racial bias on the part of school administrators. Critics argued that the disparities reflected differences in behaviors on the part of those breaking the rules. In addition, critics argued that by reducing discipline in schools, the Administration was opening the floodgates to increased rule-breaking and disorder in schools.

This whole argument is something a mirror of what has become known as the Ferguson Effect. As a result of advocacy by Black Lives Matter and other related groups, many cities reduced pro-active policing of areas in cities based on the argument that such policing represented racially biased repression. Similarly as in schools, critics argued that excess arrests were the result of excess crime and that reduced policing would lead to increased crime.

In regard to the Ferguson Effect, the data over the past three years has supported the position of the critics. Reduced policing leads to material increases in criminal activity. With policing in cities, the consequences are tragic. It is not just about increased carjackings or burglaries. Hundreds of people are murdered who would otherwise be alive had effective policing practices been continued. The policies of Social Justice Warriors are always advanced in the name of fairness but always end up with more victims than beneficiaries.

While proof of the Ferguson is hotly disputed by ideologues, the data seems solid and consistent with all the forecasts of the critics. Each year's batch of data makes the position of the critics seem more compelling.

With regard to schools though, I haven't seen any hard data about the consequences of reducing discipline in order to reduce racial disparities in punishments. Until now. From School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, 2012-16 by Max Eden. Not definitive because it is only one city. But striking that it is so consistent with the predictions of the critics.
There has been a dramatic shift in school discipline policy, spurred by national statistics showing stark racial differences in school suspension rates and the assumption that bias was behind the differences. Twenty-seven states have revised their laws to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, and more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms. From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the number of suspensions nationwide fell by nearly 20%.

Advocates of discipline reform claim that a suspension may have negative effects on the student being disciplined. Critics are concerned that lax discipline may lead to more disruptive behavior, disrupting classrooms and harming students who want to learn.

While school climate is impossible to measure in most districts, it can be measured in New York City, America’s largest school district, thanks to surveys that question students and teachers about learning conditions in their school. Over the last five years, two major discipline reforms have taken effect in New York: one at the beginning of the 2012–13 school year, under former mayor Michael Bloomberg; and one in the middle of the 2014–15 school year, under current mayor Bill de Blasio. Though the reforms resulted in similar reductions in total suspensions, Bloomberg’s reform prevented teachers from issuing suspensions for first-time, low-level offenses. De Blasio’s reform required principals to seek permission from district administrators to suspend a student.

This report analyzes student and teacher surveys covering the five-year period of 2011–12 to 2015–16. The key findings: school climate remained relatively steady under Bloomberg’s discipline reform, but deteriorated rapidly under de Blasio’s. Specifically, teachers report less order and discipline, and students report less mutual respect among their peers, as well as more violence, drug and alcohol use, and gang activity. There was also a significant differential racial impact: nonelementary schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst shift in school climate under the de Blasio reform.
Reality assaults utopians once again.

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