Fox News host Bill O'Reilly attacked efforts to decrease school suspensions and expulsions with programs known as "restorative justice," ignoring that these traditional punishments disproportionately target students of color.
For decades, many school districts followed zero-tolerance policies on student discipline. Such policies encouraged schools to suspend students for many types of violent and non-violent misconduct, including "insubordination," often at racially disproportionate rates. According to a report by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies, American students lost almost 18 million days of school instruction due to suspensions just in the 2011-12 school year. In 2014, the Department of Education and Department of Justice reported that the racial disparities "are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color," and issued new guidelines aimed at reducing racial disparities in school discipline.
In an effort to combat such racially disparate suspension rates, some school districts have promoted alternative school discipline models known as "restorative justice" programs. These programs typically involve working with students to get them to take responsibility for their behavior through group talking and dialogue rather than outright suspension or expulsion. New York City recently announced that "principals must get approval from the Education Department central office before [a] student can be suspended," and in recent years has included "more alternatives to traditional punishments, like peer mediation and early interventions."
During the March 17 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly hosted New York Post columnist Paul Sperry for a segment titled, "Chaos in Public Schools." O'Reilly claimed that "liberal mayors all over the country are making it easier for violent students to remain in public schools." O'Reilly added that "students can actually assault teachers without being suspended or expelled in some cases."
But O'Reilly's dismissal of such school discipline reform efforts ignores the racially disparate impact of zero-tolerance policies. As Capital New York explained, "during the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, 53,000 suspensions were issued, and black or Hispanic students made up 87 percent of those suspensions" in New York City. According to U.S. News & World Report, "Black Americans are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They make up 16 percent of school enrollment, but account for 32 percent of students who receive in-school suspensions, 42 percent of students who receive multiple out-of-school suspensions and 34 percent of students who are expelled":
The school discipline reforms that O'Reilly attacked have resulted in fewer suspensions. The Christian Science Monitor in 2013 described the impact of such a program in the Oakland Unified School District:
In the 2011-12 school year, African-Americans made up 32 percent of Oakland's students but 63 percent of the students suspended. In middle schools, principals suspended about 1 out of 3 black boys.
The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigated whether the discipline was discriminatory. Before making a legal finding, OCR collaborated with the district last fall on a five-year voluntary resolution plan to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and the racial disparity.
Suspensions not only dropped by 51 percent last year, but they continue to fall, and [Ralph J. Bunche Academy] eliminated disproportionality in suspensions for African-Americans.
Fox figures falsely labeled President Obama's new plan to protect student borrowers a "bailout," ignoring the realities of the plan as well as the student debt crisis that necessitated his executive action.
From the March 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News championed a campaign to encourage healthy school nutrition in an interview with New York Giants player Victor Cruz, sharply contrasting with the network's long history of attacking similar efforts as government fiat.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Victor Cruz promoted Fuel Up to Play 60, the "nation's largest in-school wellness program." The initiative, a partnership between the National Football League and the National Dairy Council, aims to encourage support for school nutrition by creating "a system for increasing breakfast participation by delivering reimbursable meals to classrooms for student consumption before or during class," pointing to research that suggests offering "breakfast free to all children improve[s] student achievement, diets and behavior."
Cruz's campaign received a warm welcome by the Fox & Friends co-hosts who donned Cruz jerseys while interviewing him during National School Breakfast Week. Co-host Steve Doocy lauded Cruz for working to ensure "every kid in America is eating a healthy breakfast." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck praised Cruz's campaign, saying, "I know how important you understand nutrition is for kids. You do so much for kids, and this Play 60 campaign that you're running with here is so important. Tell us about why breakfast really counts for kids":
National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses "are OK with" sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol.
During the February 24 edition of the NRA News radio program Cam & Company, Edwards asserted that opponents of guns on campus believe that in "almost every sexual assault, there is alcohol involved," so a "gun wouldn't help." Because of this, Edwards said, opponents of guns on campus are "OK with some sexual assaults occurring when they could be prevented."
Edwards went on to describe the position of those who say that guns on campus are not a solution to sexual assault: "So what they're saying is, they are OK with real sexual assaults happening -- whether they acknowledge that they are saying this or not, ultimately their position is that they are OK with real sexual assaults happening because they are afraid of accidents that might take place if campus carry were allowed."
In fact, Edwards is mischaracterizing recent arguments against guns as a solution to campus sexual assault, which have pointed out that guns will not actually make women on campus safer.
A new study finds that the "education experts" often cited in print and online news stories may have little expertise in education policy.
In the most recent issue of the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives, authors Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski at the University of Illinois published a study in which they "hypothesize that media impact is loosely coupled with educational expertise." The study, titled "Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence," analyzed print and online media outlets, including some that focus exclusively on education, between January 1 and December 31, 2013. According to a February 20 post from ScienceDaily, the results found that the "people most often cited as 'education experts' in blogs and news stories may have the backing of influential organizations -- but have little background in education and education policy." The post continued (emphasis added):
The findings are cause for concern because some prominent interest groups are promoting reform agendas and striving to influence policymakers and public opinion using individuals who have substantial media relations skills but little or no expertise in education research, say the authors of the study, Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski, both at the University of Illinois.
"Our findings suggest that individuals with less expertise can often have greater success in media penetration," said Malin, a curriculum specialist with the Pathways Resource Center and a doctoral candidate in educational administration and leadership at the university. "Although some individuals might not have formal training in research methods for analyzing the issues about which they are speaking, they possess skills and orientations that make them accessible and appealing to the media. And when these people are affiliated with organizations that have strong media arms or outreach efforts, they have the support and the incentive to engage broader and policy audiences."
"Newer forms of media offer particularly useful opportunities for directly engaging audiences, while bypassing traditional forms of quality checks on expertise," said Lubienski, a professor of education policy and director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the university. "We believe caution and consideration of individuals' expertise are warranted when reporters and bloggers are researching topics and seeking insights -- and when policymakers and laypersons are consuming media."
Similarly, a Media Matters report in November 2014 found that only 9 percent of guests discussing education on evening cable news were educators. Media Matters conducted an analysis of weeknight cable-news education segments from January 1 through October 31, 2014, and found that educators comprised 4 percent of education guests on CNN, 5 percent on Fox News, and 14 percent on MSNBC.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson misrepresented the constitutional law that requires states to provide public school education to undocumented children in the United States. In fact, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly mandates that states and local educational agencies are obligated to provide these children with equal access to public education if other children in that state are receiving a similar benefit.
On Mickelson's Feb 19 radio show, Mickelson criticized the Iowa Farm Bureau for wanting to raise the gas tax, alleging instead that the state could save money by not funding undocumented students to go to public schools. Mickelson rationalized this attack on "the children of Mexico" by dismissing as "magical thinking" the long-standing Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which found that not providing public education to undocumented children in a school district was unconstitutional discrimination prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and called providing education to these children a "scam" while claiming that there is no "mandate" requiring school districts to spend money educating undocumented children (see transcript below):
But Mickelson completely botched the Supreme Court's decision and relevant constitutional law.
Contrary to his explanation, the Court did not set an independent "spending mandate" on behalf of undocumented students. Rather, the Court concluded that if a state or local jurisdiction chooses to offer public education, it cannot constitutionally withhold this benefit based on immigration status, just as it cannot on account of race. In other words, the Court held that if a state chooses to offer public education to its residents, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits it from irrationally discriminating among its beneficiaries.
From the February 19 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News uncritically reported a bogus story about the alleged bullying of anti-gay students in a California high school, according to the school's superintendent. It's the second time the network has been duped by the lies of one of California's most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.
In a February 9 opinion piece for FoxNews.com, Fox News' serial misinformer and mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups Todd Starnes reported on allegations that high school students at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, were "bullied" by the school's Queer Straight Alliance during a class presentation. His report drew heavily from a press release by the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), an anti-LGBT hate group with a history of fabricating horror stories to combat efforts to make schools welcoming for LGBT students. Starnes concluded his report by asking, "Has it really come to this, America -- forcing students to declare their allegiance to the LGBT agenda?"
But in an email to Equality Matters, Acalanes High School District Superintendent John Nickerson thoroughly debunked the claims made by Starnes and PJI (emphasis added):
An examination of the program and classroom environment would suggest gross inaccuracies in the Pacific Justice Institute press release. It is not clear what other primary source Fox News used for their reporting, but their "opinion" piece on the program does not reflect what actually took place. Did not happen [quoted directly from PJI's press release]: ridiculed and humiliated / intimidation and interrogation / also had students line up. The peer led classroom activity was a carried out in a respectful environment and under the supervision of the classroom teacher. The activity focused on tolerance and acceptance, with an emphasis on anti-queer harassment and homophobia. It was intended to help students better understand the LGBTQ student experience.
The program is in its 15th year at Acalanes High School and his been a model program and replicated throughout the region.
We will continue to examine the activity/program in our efforts to improve the safety on our campuses for all students.
This is the second time Fox News and other conservative outlets have been duped by the Pacific Justice Institute. In 2013, PJI was caught promoting a fabricated story about a transgender student in Colorado harassing girls in the school bathroom - a claim that was also debunked by that school's superintendent.
Starnes contacted Nickerson for his own piece, and Starnes quoted Nickerson as writing that the school was aware of the "concerns and allegations raised by two parents and the Pacific Justice Institute" and that it was "investigating the situation."
But rather than waiting for the investigation to be completed, Starnes uncritically parroted PJI's allegations. As a result, a 15-year-old school program that fosters tolerance and acceptance of minority students has been baselessly smeared across conservative media.
Fox has a history of giving headlines to PJI, despite the group's well-established history of manufacturing anti-LGBT misinformation. Given that only recently Starnes incorrectly reported facts in a story about anti-gay cake bakers, it might behoove both Starnes and Fox to stop relying on a discredited anti-LGBT organization as a legitimate source.
From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Joe Scarborough endorsed allowing students to carry guns on college campuses based on the evidence-free argument that making campuses "gun-free zones" invites mass shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre that could have been prevented by armed students.
In fact, an analysis of mass shootings in the United States over the past 30 years found no examples where an armed civilian ended an attack or any evidence that places that do not allow guns invite mass shootings. Furthermore, research has indicated that students who possess guns at college are more likely than their peers to engage in risky conduct, suggesting that arming students could have substantial risks.
Scarborough endorsed students carrying guns on campus as a preventative measure against mass shootings on the February 19 edition of Morning Joe. He said, "I can tell you that you have campuses as gun-free zones and you put up signs all over the place, you invite people to come in and do things like they did at Virginia Tech. I can guarantee you where I went to school at the University of Alabama somebody would not be able go room by room by room picking off students and teachers. They would get to about the second or third room, and boom, it would be over."
Washington Post's The Fix falsely referred to the Common Core State Standards as "federal" and "national," a scare tactic often used by right-wing media to smear the education standards.
Earlier this week, the Oklahoma House Education Committee voted to ban Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, "persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students 'what is bad about America.'" According to Think Progress, the bill banning AP U.S. History "would also require schools to instruct students in a long list of 'foundational documents,' including the Ten Commandments, two sermons and three speeches by Ronald Reagan." As Tulsa World pointed out, the committee hearing also included discussion about the "legality" of teaching any AP courses in the state's public schools, largely from opponents of Common Core.
In a February 17 post at The Washington Post's The Fix blog, Hunter Schwarz wrote that Oklahoma lawmakers "are considering dumping the Advanced Placement program because of its similarities to Common Core," and falsely referred to the standards as both "federal" and "national" (emphasis added):
It's more controversial in a red state like Oklahoma that's more distrustful of federal standards being imposed; the poll found Republicans are more likely to view Common Core negatively than Democrats, 58 percent to 23 percent.
But there are some major differences between AP and Common Core. For one, schools aren't required to offer AP courses and students aren't required to take them to graduate. Even without banning the program statewide, AP can be a local community decision.
AP is also well-established. About one-third of public high school students in the class of 2013 took an AP exam, and the class of 2013 also scored a 3 or higher on more than a million tests -- a score typically accepted by colleges for credit, according to the College Board, which oversees the program. The University of Oklahoma accepts scores of 3 or higher in nearly 40 subject areas.
Although fighting against national education standards has become popular among some Republicans, equating Common Core to AP isn't a direct comparison, and it's likely to be a tougher slog because of it.
The myth that the Common Core State Standards are a federal initiative has been long debunked, despite its frequent use by conservative media to stoke fears about the standards. Voluntarily adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core is a set of standards in math and English that was developed by a bipartisan group of governors, state school chiefs, and teachers, among others. As the standards have taken hold in many states, some controversy has surrounded their rollout, with even Common Core supporters calling its implementation "botched."
The right-wing media outrage machine, however, has turned Common Core into something of a "rallying cry" over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards. The misguided notion that Common Core is a federal program comes as no surprise from conservative media voices, but is an unfortunate find in The Fix's education coverage.
From the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
From the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
A Washington Post editorial ignored evidence that high-stakes testing is not by itself an effective measure of student and teacher performance to baselessly allege that teachers unions want to dodge accountability.