School district puts misbehaving kids through diversity trainings instead of suspending them

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – A California school district encouraged its staff during a September 2022 workshop to send misbehaving students to diversity, empathy and “implicit bias”…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – A California school district encouraged its staff during a September 2022 workshop to send misbehaving students to diversity, empathy and “implicit bias” trainings instead of suspending or expelling them, according to documents obtained through a public records request by Parents Defending Education (PDE) and provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Poway Unified School District offered staff training on its “restorative practice” within the district, which includes focusing “on repairing harm rather than receiving punishment for breaking a rule,” according to documents obtained through a public records request by PDE. The staff training, which promotes an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) education program, offered alternative punishments to suspending students, including courses on “care” and “hate” behavior, as well as lessons on empathy and diversity. 

“Although well-intentioned, heavy-handed programming like Poway’s is often counterproductive because it demonizes and shames participants (leading to a backlash) while failing to actually change individuals’ underlying opinions in their hearts – alienating employees who now understand that to their district, they are the ‘enemy’ because of their wrongthink,” Nicole Neily, president of PDE, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “In addition, heavy-handed rhetoric not only desensitizes attendees but also can plant new stereotypes in the minds of attendees, creating problems where they previously might not have existed.”

The training given to staff notes that the “restorative response team,” which it states is aimed at addressing “incidents of bias,” is looking for more members who are able to address sensitive issues related to race and identity, the documents show. The presentation includes a chart that shows the percentage of members who are “comfortable” discussing issues of “Anti-Blackness,” “Anti-Hispanic/Latinx” and “Anti-LGBTQ+” issues.

The presentation promotes the ADL’s, a left-wing “anti-hate” activist organization, “No Place For Hate” campaign. The ADL’s “No Place For Hate” 2020-2021 coordinator handbook and resource guide shows that moments of “anti-bias” such as microaggressions, bullying or slurs can eventually lead to genocide.

The presentation offers district forms that can be used as an “alternative to suspension” of a student. The forms give several options to be used in place of punishment including sending a student to a “Caring Connections Session” and allowing the student to assist a custodian for several days.

Another form included in the presentation offers alternatives to transferring a student to a different school within the district as a form of punishment. The form includes sending the student through a course that details the “impact of hate behavior” and ensuring that the student “does not participate in any bullying, harassment, intimidation or hate behaviors.”

The same options are offered to a student as an alternative to expulsion, the presentation shows. If actions taken in the place of suspension or expulsion do not bring proper conduct, then the student is to be either expelled or suspended, the training notes.

If a student is a danger to other students, has attempted to cause physical injury, possessed a firearm or knife, committed a robbery, or is involved in substance abuse, the minor should be suspended rather than attending other means of correction, such as the “restorative justice” programing, the presentation shows. Students who engage in bullying, have harassed or intimidated a peer, stolen school property or possessed an imitation of a firearm should be sent to the “restorative justice” programing, according to the staff presentation.

The program used for students in place of punishment aims to teach students “empathy and understanding” as well as promote “restorative justice principles” in the classroom through a five-hour course, the documents show. The course includes seminars such as “restorative practice overview and self reflection” and “building empathy and celebrating diversity.”

Students are assigned the five-hour course as a “consequence to a hate behavior incident,” the presentation states.

The “empathy and awareness” lesson, obtained by PDE, teaches attendees that there is a “dominant group” in society that has certain privileges.

“Does race play a certain role?” the presentation asks in relation to the “dominant group.” “Does gender play a certain part at all?” “What does it mean to be white in the United States?”

The empathy presentation includes a video on “implicit bias” which it defines as “an unconscious attitude or preference.” Attendees are taught the definition of other keywords such as “prejudice,” “stereotyping” and “discrimination,” the presentation shows.

The presentation concludes with additional reading assignments for attendees including an article titled “A Starbucks arrest shows how black Americans are robbed of their power,” an article titled “A woman said she saw burglars. They were just black Airbnb guests,” and a third piece called “Weight bias and discrimination: A challenge for healthcare providers.”

Quizzes and additional presentations were accompanied in the documents given to PDE, including a worksheet titled “comparing blacks to monkeys,” the documents show. The quiz asks attendees when the first time they heard the comparison “of Black people to animals” and the impact of the slur on society and others.

Other worksheets include reflections on the “n-word,” the “f-word” and the phrase “that’s so gay,” which are accompanied by presentations of their own, documents given to PDE show. The worksheet titled “n-word reflection” asks students where they first heard the slur and who or what caused them to think it was acceptable.

The presentation titled “Hate Speech Addressed: The N-Word” teaches students about “anti-black racism,” explaining that the use of the word “perpetuates a violent history and reinforces” a system that “marginalizes and oppresses Black people.” A presentation linked to the worksheet, titled “that’s so gay” reflection, gives students five ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, listing that one should understand their privilege as well as use that privilege to speak up and educate others.

Under the “Discipline & Restorative Justice Practices” part of its website, the school district notes that it is revising its policies to “improve consistent implementation and a more robust approach to racial slurs, hate language and behavior.” The school district is expanding its “aspects of anti-racism and the development of restorative justice practices” to address “all incidents of hate language and behavior are also currently in the development phase.”

Poway Unified School District did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.