The state’s top education official rebuffed an attempt by some lawmakers to look more closely at whether schools hand out harsher discipline to some students because of their race.
Sixteen Arizona lawmakers had signed a letter to Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, asking him to create a panel for students or their parents to appeal school district decisions. They also claimed schools used racial discrimination in discipline decisions.
Horne on Monday sent a letter back, stating that such a panel is u n n e ce s s a r y and that parents and lawmakers should be more supportive of teachers and administrators in imposing classroom discipline.
“In the old days, if you got in trouble with the school, you got in trouble with your parents,’’ he said. “Now you have parents threatening to sue the school and supporting the kids.”
But Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr., D-Phoenix, said minority students are more likely to face harsher punishment by teachers for incidents than white students.
“I’m not saying every kid is right and every teacher is wrong,” said Campbell, who is one of the 16 lawmakers who raised concerns about discrimination.
Campbell also sponsored legislation that called for the oversight panel, but it has not been heard in committee. He said school boards have been unresponsive to parental complaints and another level of oversight is needed. Campbell said he has only anecdotal evidence and has not researched each of the complaints he has received.
Similarly, Horne acknowledged there is no database at the state Department of Education to track discipline by the type of incident, the student’s race or ethnicity and the type of punishment meted out.