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VICTOR JOECKS: Fired deans disproportionately African-American, Hispanic

The deans fired by Superintendent Jesus Jara were more likely to be African-American or Hispanic than the administrators who kept their jobs. That’s according to information provided by the Clark County School District.

Of the fired deans, 17 percent were African-American. Only 10 percent of the remaining assistant principals and principals are African-American. Hispanic deans made up 13 percent of the total, while 11 percent of the remaining administrative employees are Hispanic. In contrast, Caucasian employees represented just 65 percent of the fired employees. Of the remaining administrators, 71 percent are Caucasian.

The numbers tell an especially stark story for African-American females. Of the fired deans, 14 percent were female African-Americans. Of the remaining administrators, 8 percent are.

The data comes from a document prepared by the district dated June 14. That’s three days after Jara fired the deans. Around 25 of those fired were actually working as assistant principals. The district funded their positions as deans. Their schools decided to spend the money to bump them up to the higher position. The information provided doesn’t separate out those individuals.

The high number of African-American deans isn’t a fluke, according to one principal who asked to remain anonymous. We’ve been “intentionally trying to recruit our great African-American teachers” to become administrators, the principal said.

Information provided by the district shows that 85 percent of deans have been in their position for less than five years. That suggests most move up and become assistant principals. By firing the deans, Jara shut down a talent pipeline that would have helped diversify the district’s upper ranks.

That’s a disparate impact, which Jara has railed against when it comes to student discipline. A disparate impact occurs when a policy, even one blind to race, produces outcomes not perfectly proportional with a group’s racial make-up. Just producing a disparate impact, the theory goes, is evidence of racism.

Expecting results in a multi-variable situation to be perfectly proportionate with a single variable, such as race, is inane. It’s a simplistic misunderstanding of probability, as Thomas Sowell details in his insightful book, Discrimination and Disparities. Jara’s action was not racist.

But for the past year, Jara has asserted that the district’s discipline policy needs revamping because it produces a racial disparity. Specifically, African-American students are more likely to be suspended and expelled. A 2013 district-commissioned study asserted bias was the No. 1 cause of the disparity. Jara wants to “ensure school leaders are held accountable for disproportionate discipline patterns,” according to a district news release.

Jara’s standard is clear. Policies that produce a racial disparity are unacceptable, as are the leaders responsible for them. By firing the deans, however, he’s now implemented his own disparity-producing policy.

Either Jara should acknowledge the mere existence of disparity isn’t evidence of racism or admit he’s guilty of the same bias he condemns in others.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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