This guest post is from Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization opposed to reverse discrimination.
According to recent stories in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Education, led by Asst. Sec for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, (pictured right) is falling in line with the Department of Justice, vilifying the Bush administration for not enforcing the civil-rights laws — by which it means, apparently, not relying enough on “disparate impact” allegations.
And disparate-impact cases are not really discrimination cases at all, in any real-world sense, because they do not allege that a challenged practice is discriminatory. All that is alleged is that it leads to politically incorrect racial and ethnic results.
The Wall Street Journal article highlights the Obama administration’s interest in school systems where there are racial disparities in disciplining students. So let’s look at that.
If school systems know they will face a federal investigation whenever there is a numerical disparity in the races of students being disciplined, then what will they do? Well, if they are deliberately discriminating against, say, Latino students, they may stop that. That’s great — but if the discrimination is deliberate, you don’t need to attack it with the “disparate impact” approach.
The much bigger problem is that the disparate-impact approach will pressure school systems who are not engaged in discrimination to get their numbers right so they won’t be investigated.
And how will they do that? Two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who don't deserve disciplining. Or they will forgo disciplining, say, black students who deserve to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is more likely, will be disastrous for all children, of whatever color.