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EDITORIAL: As discipline declines, school violence soars

Failing to learn is just one risk for children who attend the Clark County School District.

This month, an online video showed a vicious beating that occurred at Las Vegas High School. A female student came up behind another female student who was sitting at her desk and pummeled her with more than 30 punches. A few seconds in, the student slumps onto her desk and remains motionless while the aggressor continues her vicious assault.

It’s hard to watch, but not for the nearby students. Several kids were just feet away, but they responded with indifference. Only one person — it’s not clear if it was the teacher — made a feeble and ineffective attempt to stop the violence. At least the kids wore masks. Safety first!

Last week, district police arrested a student for the battery. The district also went into damage control mode, telling people not to share the footage online.

“Showing this video serves no purpose other than to further ridicule and embarrass the victim and embolden bullies,” the district said in a statement.

There is another purpose. It tragically shows how lax discipline policies are leading to classroom disruptions and creating dangers for students trying to learn. The violence captured on this video isn’t an isolated incident. Far from it.

A district official said there were up to a dozen serious fights a week when the school year started. Undoubtedly, returning from a year of virtual schooling played a role. But violent confrontations have been increasing for years. More weapons were confiscated in the first half of this school year than in the 2019-2020 calendar. Citations from school police are up, too.

Arrests, however, are down significantly. That’s no surprise because for years, the district has embraced a type of affirmative action disciplinary policy designed to minimize punishments for minority students and to equalize disciplinary actions across various ethnic groups.

Almost a decade ago, a district working group declared that “bias” was the No. 1 reason for a racial disparity in discipline reports. The No. 2 reason was a “lack of administrative awareness of disproportionality.” The group paid little attention, to whether punishments were justified by the actions of the various individuals involved. To the apparent surprise of the district administrators, not punishing rule breakers has led to more rule breaking.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to reach kids who misbehave in an effort to keep them in school. But serial offenders must face consequences for their actions and teachers must be free to control their classrooms. The many students who are there to learn, and the teachers assigned to educate them, deserve nothing less.

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