Left­ists’ Abu Ghraib-like take on U.S. schools

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

The cit­i­zens of the world who hate Amer­ica are go­ing to love the lat­est ag­it­prop re­leased last week by Hu­man Rights Watch and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union. In a doc­u­ment ti­tled “A Vi­o­lent Ed­u­ca­tion: Cor­po­ral Pu­n­ish­ment of Chil­dren in U.S. Pub­lic Schools,” the left­wing groups seek to paint a hor­ri­fy­ing por­trait of the na­tion’s class­rooms as Abu Ghraib-like tor­ture cham­bers.

The re­port com­piles sob sto­ries of stu­dents hu­mil­i­ated af­ter be­ing dis­ci­plined by school of­fi­cials for un­ruli­ness, and claims that mi­nor­ity stu­dents are “dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted” for pu­n­ish­ment. Cit­ing in­ter­na­tional law and threat­en­ing law­suits, Hu­man Rights Watch and the ACLU are de­mand­ing that the White House and Congress ban phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline in all pub­lic schools.

The re­port says that “more than 200,000 U.S. pub­lic school stu­dents were pun­ished by beat­ings dur­ing the 2006-2007 school year,” but makes no dis­tinc­tion be­tween “beat­ings” that take the form of mere knuckle-rap­ping ver­sus swats on the back­side ver­sus over-the-line vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions. In sev­eral of the anec­dotes cited, it wasn’t bruised bot­toms that up­set the sup­pos­edly bru­tal­ized stu­dents. It was bruised egos.

Peter S., a mid­dle-school stu­dent from the Mis­sis­sippi Delta, whined to the re­searchers: “The other kids were watch­ing and laugh­ing. It made me want to fight them. When you get a pad­dling and you see every­one laugh at you, it make you mad and you want to do some­thing about it.” How about end­ing your bad be­hav­ior and fly­ing right?

Of course ed­u­ca­tors must use com­mon sense when pun­ish­ing bad ap­ples. Of course they should be held ac­count­able if they cause un­due harm. But the agenda of th­ese out­fits is not to en­sure the safety of every­one in the class­room. Their agenda is to de­mo­nize un­apolo­getic en­forcers of or­der and to im­pose in­ter­na­tional dic­tates on Amer­i­can pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions.

The main au­thor of the re­port is a spe­cial fel­low with the Open So­ci­ety In­sti­tute, funded by Ge­orge (Amer­ica must be “de­Naz­i­fied”) Soros. Re­plete with ref­er­ences to the Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture and the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights, the re­port de­clares in sweep­ing terms: “All cor­po­ral pu­n­ish­ment, whether or not it causes sig­nif­i­cant phys­i­cal in­jury, rep­re­sents a vi­ola- tion of each stu­dent’s rights to phys­i­cal in­tegrity and hu­man dig­nity. It is de­grad­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing, dam­ag­ing the stu­dent’s self-es­teem and mak­ing him or her feel help­less.” It’s Gitmo all over again.

As usual, the Hu­man Rights Watch/ACLU ac­tivists in­ject claims of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion into the mix — re­peat­edly un­der­scor­ing that many of the re­main­ing states that al­low cor­po­ral pu­n­ish­ment are in the South. They in­fer de­lib­er­ate tar­get­ing of black stu­dents based on statis­tics that re­port­edly show that “in the 13 south­ern states where cor­po­ral pu­n­ish­ment is most preva­lent, African-Amer­i­can stu­dents are pun­ished at 1.4 times the rate that would be ex­pected given their num­bers in the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion, and African-Amer­i­can girls are 2.1 times more likely to be pad­dled than might be ex­pected.”

But that dis­pro­por­tion does not au­to­mat­i­cally equal dis­crim­i­na­tion. What they don’t tell you are the races or eth­nic­i­ties of the vic­tims of the thugs be­ing dis­ci­plined. What they don’t bother to men­tion — be­cause it doesn’t fit the Amer­ica-as-tor­turer-of-mi­nori­ties nar­ra­tive — is the un­mit­i­gated vi­o­lence per­pe­trated in Amer­i­can class­rooms against mi­nor­ity teach­ers.

The re­cent video­taped beat­ing of black Bal­ti­more teacher Jolita Berry by a black fe­male stu­dent — as other black stu­dents cheered and screamed, “Hit her!” — ex­posed the con­tin­u­ing chaos in in­ner-city dis­tricts. In that school sys­tem alone, 112 stu­dents were ex­pelled for as­saults on staff mem­bers this school year.

Fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion statis­tics show that be­tween 1996 and 2000, 599,000 vi­o­lent crimes against teach­ers at school were re­ported. On av­er­age, the feds say, in each year from 1996 to 2000, about 28 out of ev­ery 1,000 teach­ers were the vic­tims of vi­o­lent crime at school, and three out of ev­ery 1,000 were vic­tims of se­ri­ous vi­o­lent crime (i.e., rape, sex­ual as­sault, rob­bery or ag­gra­vated as­sault). Vi­o­lence against teach­ers is higher at ur­ban schools.

Amer­ica’s prob­lem isn’t that we’re too tough and cruel in the class­room. It’s that we’ve be­come too soft and placa­tive, too ashamed and timid to as­sert au­thor­ity and take uni­lat­eral action to guar­an­tee a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment. Ex­actly where the hu­man rights groups want us.

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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