Christopher Scott of the Open Society Foundations responds to President Obama’s December 2015 signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA).
He writes: “A generation ago, it was teachers, guidance counselors, and principals who addressed students’ insolent behavior. Today, schools and law enforcement officers in schools are too quick to criminalize it. Inappropriate disciplinary tactics such as handcuffing kindergarteners, putting students in chokeholds, or shackling students with disabilities to desks need to end before more students are seriously hurt or killed.
“Last month, many Americans saw firsthand what African American and Latino students have long experienced. At Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, a police officer slammed a 16-year-old African American girl onto the floor and violently dragged her simply because she did not listen to him. The video of the assault went viral, drawing much-needed attention to this problem.
“Today, President Obama took a step toward mitigating the criminalization of school discipline by signing the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan measure that reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sets federal K–12 education policy and allocates federal education money to states.”