The “white privilege” assault on school safety and discipline doesn’t necessarily have to involve the Pacific Educational Group, a consulting firm that excuses poor behavior among minority students, because they are perceived to be victims of institutional racism.

OKCPBSlogoThe federal government does a fine job of pressuring schools into tolerating ugly behavior, all on its own.

A perfect example comes from the Oklahoma City school district, which made an attempt this year to reduce the number of student suspensions.

That was due to pressure from the Obama administration, which accused the district of discriminating against minority students because they receive a high percentage of suspensions.

At first the suspension rate went way down, but disciplinary problems reportedly increased, teachers and parents complained, and now suspension are on the rise again.

The situation leaves the Oklahoma City district – and many others across the nation – in a difficult position. If they do what the federal government insists they must do, their schools become increasingly unsafe. If they ignore the federal directive, they could risk legal action or sanctions.

The feds have made it clear that fair, even-handed application of student suspension policies – regardless of race – is not acceptable. They want the number of minority suspensions decreased, even if that means tolerating bad behavior.

Federal guidelines say “schools ‘violate federal law when they even-handedly implement facially neutral policies’ that were adopted with no intent to discriminate ‘but nonetheless have an unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race,’” according to TheLibertarianRepublic.com.

That policy has directly impacted the Oklahoma City district.

The Federal Office of Civil Rights has been investigating the district for allegedly discriminating against minority students, because they receive a disproportionate share of suspensions, according to KOSU.org.

The district responded last fall by introducing a new option for students who are facing suspensions.

Instead of being banned from school for any number of days, they can enroll in a special 10-day, in-school remedial program, where they receive tutoring while they experience character development classes and counseling, KOSU.org reported.

The program had a major impact on the student suspension rate, at least at first. It dropped 55 percent early in the school year, compared to one year before.

But the tradeoff has been more violent and unruly behavior among students, according to various media reports.

In a teachers union survey conducted last fall, nearly 90 percent of responding teachers said the “amount and frequency of offending behavior” has increased, according to the Oklahoman.

“I have 40 minutes of scheduled (planning) time and 30 minutes of scheduled lunch each day, but rarely get to utilize it because I am dealing with discipline issues,” one teacher was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

“This year I have acquired multiple bruises, bite marks and a knot on my head from a student pulling my hair so hard. This is frustrating and makes me feel very helpless.”

That feeling is apparently common among Oklahoma City teachers.

“More than half of the teachers who took the union survey said they are required to tolerate offending behavior, citing a lack of administrative support, while 60 percent said they currently have a student with a chronic discipline problem that should not be allowed in the classroom,” the Oklahoman reported.

“Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done, but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors,” another teacher was quoted as saying. “These students know there is nothing a teacher can do. Good students are now suffering because of the abuse and issues plaguing these classrooms.”

In November a large crowd packed a school board meeting to complain about the growing discipline problem in the schools.

“In my building, according to my administrators, we have about 35 students out of 778 students, that are responsible for 45 percent of the discipline problems,” sixth-grade teacher Robert Lowery told the school board, according to KOSU.org. “And these students have to stay in our class because the administration won’t suspend them.

“They are a constant disruption, and then other students in the class are being affected too. One or two discipline problems in a class can cause students not to learn and get further behind because the teacher can’t teach with the students being a constant disruption.”

Now it appears that district officials are facing reality by increasing their use of student suspensions, regardless of what the federal government might think.

While suspensions decreased 55 percent earlier in the school year, compared to last year, by mid-January that figure had fallen to 18 percent, KOSU.org reported.

It will be interesting to see if that trend continues, and how the federal government might respond to it.