I Understand the Concern, But....

I think folks are rightly concerned that "disparate impact" logic run amok is leading to a lot of questionable practices, like this one in Minnesota:

The good: Minneapolis Public Schools want to decrease total suspensions for non-violent infractions of school rules.

The bad: The district has pledged to do this by implementing a special review system for cases where a black or Latino student is disciplined. Only minority students will enjoy this special privilege.

That seems purposefully unconstitutional—and is likely illegal, according to certain legal minds.

The new policy is the result of negotiations between MPS and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Minority students are disciplined at much higher rates than white students, and for two years the federal government has investigated whether that statistic was the result of institutional racism.

I understand the concern here, and I don't think it is unreasonable to demand that a public institution make this review process applicable to all suspensions, not just to those of black and Hispanic kids.

But good God, if I found out, say, that Hispanics were getting laid off at ten times the rate as Anglo workers in my company, I would definitely do something different in the process.  I would not immediately assume it was due to discrimination but I would sure as hell insert myself into the process to make sure things were fair.  I could easily see myself at least temporarily demanding in such a case that all terminations of people of color be reviewed with me first.  Hell, I wouldn't have waited for two years to do it either.   Even if the terminations turned out to be righteous, I would  hopefully learn something along the way about why the disparity exists and what I could do about it in the future.

By the way, in today's legal environment, any private employer who says they don't put extra scrutiny on terminations of folks in protected classes, or don't increase the warnings and documentation required internally before firing someone in a protected class, is probably a liar.


  1. Howard Luken:

    So it was documented and you knew within 2 days?

  2. mahtso:

    A few years back, Maricopa County instituted special courts for those who speak Spanish and for Native Americans -- the county attorney sued on the basis that this was discriminatory (at least in part, b/c people in those courts were allegedly getting better treatment or lesser penalties) -- the case was dismissed b/c the county attorney could not show that he suffered an injury

  3. Sam L.:

    It's that "protected class" thing that burns mu bytt. I can see a "disparate impact" suit on behalf of the white kids.

  4. ErikEssig:

    Warren, like you I'm all for fairness and a transparent review process, but you can't be that naive about behaviour in schools, can you?

  5. kidmugsy:

    "if I found out, say, that Hispanics were getting laid off at ten times the rate as Anglo workers in my company ...": in those shoes I might take a look at my hiring procedures.

  6. sb7:

    I agree, but I think your analogy breaks down. Your ultimate goal in giving special scrutiny to firings of employees in protected classes is still to do what is optimal for your firm. The school system's special review board exists for the sole purpose of un-suspending students that come before it. It's entire raison d'etre is to revoke punishments from a certain class of students.

    Maybe that's okay because that class of students is getting punished too often. But there's still a difference between putting an extra step in a process to further refine it, like you describe in your business, and putting a thumb on the other end of a scale to attempt to balance it out by main force, which is what Minnesota seems to be doing.

  7. randian:

    Black and Latino students offend more often. Since the left forbids noticing such things they demand special tribunals for those of privileged pigmentation.

  8. Curtis:

    Play by the rules. The rules apply to everybody. There are no exceptions to the rules. Srsly, what could be fairer than that?

  9. Bram:

    Just more sad proof that we have become more race conscious, not less in my lifetime. The grievance industry doesn't want anyone looked at as a responsible individual and judged as such.

    With rules like this and the risks the author describes, the first thing I'm supposed to think when meeting a person is: Black, or woman, Latino, or Asian - and walk on eggshells if the person belongs to a protected class. Good job guys.

  10. Griffin3:

    @Curtis: You are assuming the rules are fair, which is one thing that Coyote is saying should be reviewed. Just to make up a for-instance: If anyone is caught fighting while wearing a bandana, is it assumed to be "gang colors" and treated more harshly? If the rule is, if a kid is in trouble, call the parents, if the parents don't pick up the phone, refer to police? That could seem a fair rule to people with cell phones and cushy jobs, but not be fair to parents working in fast food. A pretty darn quick look at the zoning laws of any city will reveal rules that seem fair on the surface, but result in 99% segregated neighborhoods. Like anywhere around St. Louis.

    A simple seeming statement to "Play by the rules. The rules apply to everybody." does not negate the need to check to see if the rules are discriminatory/part of the problem.

    "Who makes the rules?"
    "Some one else"

  11. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Srsly, what could be fairer than that?"

    Anything if the rules themselves have been deliberately designed to be unfair.

  12. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Who makes the rules?"

    The Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.