SAN FRANCISCO – Last week we were stunned to learn that chaos has been the norm in the St. Paul, Minnesota school district, due to a student disciplinary policy that replaces suspensions with time-outs, counseling and other less punitive measures.
We also learned that the controversial policy was influenced by the Pacific Educational Group (PEG), a radical San Francisco-based consulting firm that claims black students lag behind academically, and tend to have more disciplinary problems, because American K-12 education is designed to benefit white students – aka “white privilege.”
Now it’s becoming obvious that several other large school districts around the nation are in the same situation as St. Paul.
They’ve all instituted radical disciplinary policies to reduce the number of black student suspensions, they’ve all experienced serious behavioral problems as a result, and they’re all included on a recent list of PEG client school districts.
That begs a simple, disturbing question – is PEG making a lot of money by promoting policies in public schools that lead to chaos and danger for students and staff?
In St. Paul, the media directly connected PEG to the radical new disciplinary policies that have teachers, parents and union officials complaining about a lack of safety in hallways and classrooms.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote that “PEG’s input has spurred district-wide changes in St. Paul, from a push to reduce suspensions to a bid to integrate students with intensive special needs into mainstream classrooms.
“Critics say PEG’s work has alienated some educators and, in recasting certain discipline issues as cultural misunderstandings, let disruptive students and their families off the hook.”
PEG’s connection to similarly passive disciplinary policies in the Madison, Wisconsin; Denver; Philadelphia; Los Angeles, Oakland and Portland school districts is not quite as obvious.
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No news reports have surfaced claiming the organization played a direct role in encouraging school officials to adopt or implement policies that allow violent and unruly behavior to go unchecked.
But all six of those districts were included on a PEG client list that was published on the organization’s website last October. A more recent list was pulled off the PEG website last week, following revelations about the severe disciplinary problems in St. Paul.
Meanwhile, we know that Glenn Singleton, founder and CEO of PEG, tends to excuse violent behavior committed by black students.
“White educators are prone to wondering why black and brown boys are prone to fighting in school,” Singleton was quoted as saying by the American Thinker.
“They question why violence is taught in homes of color. Missing from this analysis however is how these boys might be affected by growing up in a white-governed country which threatens young men of color at will, distrusts their ability to succeed and follow the law, and allows daily racial stress to mount in neighborhoods, schools and classrooms.”
New York Post reporter Paul Sperry, who recently published a story about soft disciplinary policies and increasing chaos in school districts around the nation, notes that the Obama administration has ordered numerous schools to reduce the number of black student suspensions.
But he has no doubt that PEG has played a significant role in convincing officials in many districts to tolerate a lot of behavior that would have been unthinkable in the past.
“I know that PEG has had an outsized role in reshaping not only discipline policy in these districts but also curriculum — including lesson plans, activities and materials — as well as even hiring,” Sperry told EAGnews. “They emphasize the recruitment of minority faculty and even recommend ‘racial equity’ and ‘restorative justice’ coordinators.
“What’s more, they do the racial-sensitivity training of teachers as part of professional teacher training workshops, reprogramming them to think that THEY are the problem, not the misbehaving kids, that their ‘whiteness’ and ‘cultural insensitivity’ is the reason African-American students tend to be, on average, more disruptive and violent than other students and tend to underperform academically.
“Some of the teachers come out of the workshops sobbing. It’s classic brainwashing. As we’ve seen in St. Paul and Baltimore and Portland and Los Angeles and Philly and other school districts, PEG’s race-based programs are backfiring.”
The Madison, Wisconsin school district made news last week when teachers expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the district’s one-year-old Behavioral Education Plan.
That plan was adopted to “reduce rates of student suspension and expulsion overall and whittle down a racial disparity that made black students eight times more likely than white students to get an out-of-school suspension last year,” according to the Capitol Times.
Now the Times is reporting that Madison teachers expressed their displeasure with the plan through a survey conducted by their union.
“The survey found that 87 percent of survey respondents did not agree that the school district’s Behavior Education Plan, as currently written and implemented, has had a positive effect on behavior of students.
“And 86 percent said a student is not ready to re-engage in learning when returned to a class following a behavior incident.”
Teacher dissatisfaction in Madison is apparently mild compared to some other school district around the nation.
A good example is the Denver school district, where a new student discipline policy reportedly is creating disorder, fear and anger.
According to a recent story posted on Chalkbeat.org:
The aim of the discipline policy, revised in recent years, is to reduce in-school or out-of-school suspensions and expulsions so that students can continue to be in a learning environment. It also aims to erase the longstanding disparity between white students and students of color in terms of consequences for student misbehavior.
However, some teachers are complaining about the policy’s numerous tiered approaches to handle each infraction, abundant paperwork and uneven distribution of resources for teachers and students. That complexity has led to confusion, some teachers say, which in turn means students are getting away with bad behavior that wreaks havoc on a quality learning environment.
Board member Andrea Merida asked for an update on the discipline policy from the district’s student services office after a 14-year-old girl was attacked at Henry World Middle School on March 8. The girl’s classmates lured the teacher out of the classroom so another girl could attack the victim. Students videotaped the assault and posted it on social media.
And on March 20, 60 Bruce Randolph Middle School teachers, office staff and custodians sent a letter to Superintendent Tom Boasberg complaining about the policy. And 44 staff and teachers at Morey Middle School sent a letter the following day expressing similar concerns.
The letter from the Randolph Middle School staff said the following, according to Chalkbeat:
“The disproportionate amount of time and resources that in the past would have been spent on improving instruction is instead spent by our entire staff, including administrators, instructional team, support staff, and teachers on habitually disruptive students that continually return to our classroom. This has now reached a critical point.”
Sperry’s story on the New York Post, titled “How liberal discipline polices are making schools less safe,” addressed problems in several other districts on the PEG client list.
In Los Angeles, “even threats against teachers are ignored, as administrators’ hands are tied by the news policies,” Sperry wrote.
The Post story quoted an L.A. teacher as saying, “I was terrified and bullied by a fourth grade student. The black student told me to ‘Back off b—h,’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, b—h and nobody can make me.”
Sperry wrote about Allen Zolman, a former middle school teacher in the Philadelphia school district, who testified in front of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the pratfalls of overly forgiving disciplinary policies.
“I’m going to torture you,” Zolman claims one student told him. “I’m doing this because I can’t be removed.”
“The less we are willing or able to respond, the more they will control the classroom, the hallways and the school,” Zolman was quoted as saying.
In the Oakland school district, a student who set another student’s hair on fire was talked to instead of suspended, according to Sperry’s story.
In the Portland school district, which has long embraced PEG’s philosophies, Sperry wrote that “After a black high school boy repeatedly punched his teacher in the face, sending her to the emergency room, the teacher, who is white, was advised by the assistant principal not to press charges. The administrator lectured her about how hard it is for young black men to overcome a criminal record.”
Despite the horrors that have resulted from lax discipline in many urban schools, Sperry sees more of the same on the horizon.
“Unfortunately, (PEG) will only win more contracts as school districts scramble to meet the Obama administration’s new race-based discipline guidelines calling for restorative justice and other alternatives to suspensions,” Sperry told EAGnews.
“If they don’t adopt the the kinds of programs promulgated by PEG, they risk losing millions in Education Department grants. They also risk discrimination and race-bias investigations and lawsuits filed by DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, which has been flexing its muscles like never before under this administration.
“Over the next few years, I fear that what PEG is doing will gradually become nationwide policy for public schools – and the consequences will be catastrophic, most acutely for those urban students who actually want to learn and graduate and go on to college without chaos in the classroom.”