Washington State School District Adopts Race-Based Student Discipline Policy

A Washington State school board has adopted a revised “culturally responsive” student discipline policy that weighs a student’s race before deciding on consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Conservative radio host Jason Rantz reported at MyNorthwest this week the Clover Park School Board adopted the new policy by a vote of 3-2 after contentious debate.

According to the report by Rantz, host of The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH:

The Clover Park School District debated its new “culturally responsive” student discipline policy. It means student discipline would not be consistent based on conduct. Instead, a school considers a student’s race and background. It would likely offer harsher punishments to white students, even if the conduct is identical to that of a Black or Hispanic student.

Rantz made the point that the Clover Park district is responding to a new “culturally responsive” policy that now affects every school district in the state of Washington since the Democrat-led legislature passed a law that embeds the concepts of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in student disciplinary policy – without calling it CRT.

The Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) wrote about the new law (ESSB 5044), titled “An act relating to equity, cultural competency, and dismantling institutional racism in the public school system”:

[T]he law requires WSSDA to identify or develop and periodically update governance training programs that align with Cultural Competency, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion standards for school director governance.

Cultural Competency includes knowledge of student cultural histories and contexts, as well as family norms and values in different cultures; knowledge and skills in accessing community resources and community and parent outreach; and skills in adapting instruction to students’ experiences and identifying cultural contexts for individual students.

WSSDA states “equality” is no longer the goal to be pursued in the state’s schools:

[T]he OnBoard framework includes specific trainings that explore what equity means, how it differs from equality, why it creates better student outcomes, and what the role of the board is in moving towards equity.

“Equity,” according to WSSDA, “includes developing, strengthening, and supporting procedural and outcome fairness in systems, procedures, and resource distribution mechanisms to create equitable opportunities.”

“This means the outcomes must be the same,” Rantz wrote.

The revised disciplinary policy, Rantz reported, states disruptive students may face “exclusionary as well as positive and supportive forms of discipline,” although the focus is to keep students in the classroom and provide “equitable educational opportunities.”

“In practice, it means favorable treatment of racial minorities,” the radio host further stated in his column, which Libs of TikTok picked up as well.


Rantz described the heated debate during the Clover Park board meeting when two conservative members asked what would be considered “culturally responsive discipline.”

“Essentially they’re referring there, that you look at ‘are you dispersing discipline across the ethnicities, the racial groups equitably,’ right?,” Deputy Superintendent Brian Laubach responded. “So, are you disciplining African-American boys more than you’re disciplining white boys, right? So, are you paying attention to all of that in your data?”

Laubach added about the data requirements:

What are their backgrounds? Ethnicity? That sort of thing can be commented in that way about it. Then, asking classroom teachers, asking administrators who dispense that discipline, you know, what brought that about over the other forms of discipline you used in your classroom to make a change happen before sending a kid out, perhaps, for a behavior violation?

Rantz then described an example of a situation that was raised to further explain the concept:

[B]oard member Anthony Veliz offered a clumsy example of a student stealing a slice of pizza. Veliz argued that the student’s culture teaches that stealing is permitted.

“What if, you know, just saying, like, in my background, what if that type of rule that we broke was more acceptable at my house, right, versus your house?” Veliz said. “And, you know, when I’m talking to them, like, ‘hey, you know what, actually, I thought I was OK, I thought it was fine to grab that piece of pizza before anybody else. Because in my house, I’m allowed to do that.’ Right?”

Board member Paul Wagemann, meanwhile, rejected this concept.

“Let’s say we both commit the same offense,” Wagemann explained. “Then the question should be what are the consequences of that offense? And how do we go through that process? That’s how I see it. And to be fair, if we both did the same thing, we should get the same consequence, the way I see it. And I think that’s how most children on the playground like to see it. Most of us, as citizens in our community, like to see it that way. That it’s equal.”

Wagemann objected to the notion that he would “have to look at [a student’s] nationality or where he was born or where he lived” before punishment.

“He did an offense. I did the same offense. We should suffer the same consequence. And I think that’s what our system should do, at least the way I see it,” Wagemann concluded.

“In other words, to use the example from Veliz in the Clover Park School District, if a teacher thinks stealing pizza is wrong, it’s because of their own cultural backgrounds,” Rantz summarized.

In a comment to The Star News Network about the Clover Park revised discipline policy, Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said:

If the school district is, in fact, considering a student’s race in the imposition of discipline, even if it’s only one factor among many, it would be blatantly unlawful. It would also be racist, despicable, counterproductive, and galactically stupid. It would be similar to the school discipline guidance issued by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights during the Obama Administration that yielded staggering increases in school violence and widespread classroom disruptions. There’s no better way to teach students to be racist than to use race in the imposition of discipline.

According to the school district’s website, 35.25 percent of the student body are Hispanic, 28.21 percent are white, 12.47 percent are black, 5.66 percent are Pacific Islander, 3.95 percent are Asian American, and 13.73 percent are multiple ethnicities.

“The data currently shows Hispanic, white, and black students receive the most student discipline,” Rantz observed. “None of the data suggests disproportionate enforcement, relative to their demographic share of the student population.”

In April 2021, the Biden education department proposed a rule promoting a focus on “culturally responsive teaching” in American History and Civics.

The recommended policy followed Biden’s executive order issued on the day of his inauguration, January 20, 2021, titled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” in which Biden said the nation was steeped in “systemic racism”:

Entrenched disparities in our laws and public policies, and in our public and private institutions, have often denied that equal opportunity to individuals and communities. Our country faces converging economic, health, and climate crises that have exposed and exacerbated inequities, while a historic movement for justice has highlighted the unbearable human costs of systemic racism.

The Biden education department explained the background for its proposed rule, mentioning that both the “1619 Project” and the work of critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi reflect the administration’s goals:

[T]here is growing acknowledgement of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society. This acknowledgement is reflected, for example, in the New York Times ‘landmark “1619 Project” and in the resources of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.

Accordingly, schools across the country are working to incorporate anti-racist practices into teaching and learning. As the scholar Ibram X. Kendi has expressed, “[a]n antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences — that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.” It is critical that the teaching of American history and civics creates learning experiences that validate and reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students.

“In turn, racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically responsive teaching and learning practices contribute to what has been called an ‘identity-safe’ learning environment,” the U.S. Education Department also stated.

Defining the concept of “diversity” on its website, Clover Park School District states:

We believe it is not enough to celebrate our diversities, but to fully embrace diversity by ensuring the diversity of our students are reflected in our hiring practices, curriculum, classroom environment, and leadership team.

District equity work is enabled specifically from the vision of the superintendent with full support of the Board of Directors to ensure equity permeates our policies, procedures and practice. Our efforts have resulted in intentional steps forward on our equity journey in every department through professional development and specific equity audits of systems and operations.

“Administrators, teachers, paraeducators and secretaries have all participated in a progressive approach to working through the Deep Equity process,” the district adds.

The Star News Network reached out to Clover Park Superintendent Ron Banner for comment and is awaiting a response.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Clover Park High School” by Bahn Mi. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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