Ethics Alarms devotes a great amount of commentary to the mainstream media’s left-leaning bias—as it should. The major news media sources in the U.S. have become untrustworthy, too often serve as willing tools of government, specifically Democratic Party-controlled government, policy, which is exactly the opposite of the role they are ethically obligated to play. The right-biased news organizations are just as biased but far less numerous or powerful, and have the unique disadvantage of being generally regarded as biased and unreliable because the mainstream media tells us so with great regularity.
Misleading news reporting is still misleading, however, and a recent example is the conservative news media’s characterization of the January letter that went out from the Department of Education and the Justice Department to school districts around the country regarding discriminatory class discipline. The letter (FULL TEXT here) describes various types of common discrimination, but the part of it that the conservative media has focused upon is its discussion of “disparate impact.” The letter says…
Schools also violate Federal law when they even-handedly implement facially neutral policies and practices that, although not adopted with the intent to discriminate, nonetheless have an unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race. The resulting discriminatory effect is referred to as “disparate impact.”
In determining whether a facially neutral policy has an unlawful disparate impact on the basis of race, the Departments will engage in the following three-part inquiry .
(1) Has the discipline policy resulted in an adverse impact on students of a particular race as compared with students of other races? For example, depending on the facts of a particular case, an adverse impact may include, but is not limited to, instances where students of a particular race, as compared to students of other races, are disproportionately: sanctioned at higher rates; disciplined for specific offenses; subjected to longer sanctions or more severe penalties; removed from the regular school setting to an alternative school setting; or excluded from one or more educational programs or activities. If there were no adverse impact, then, under this inquiry, the Departments would not find sufficient evidence to determine that the school had engaged in discrimination. If there were an adverse impact, then:
(2) Is the discipline policy necessary to meet an important educational goal? In conducting the second step of this inquiry, the Departments will consider both the importance of the goal that the school articulates and the tightness of the fit between the stated goal and the means employed to achieve it. If the policy is not necessary to meet an important educational goal, then the Departments would find that the school had engaged in discrimination. If the policy is necessary to meet an important educational goal, then the Departments would ask:
(3) Are there comparably effective alternative policies or practices that would meet the school’s stated educational goal with less of a burden or adverse impact on the disproportionately affected racial group, or is the school’s justification a pretext for discrimination? If the answer is yes to either question, then the Departments would find that the school had engaged in discrimination. If no, then the Departments would likely not find sufficient evidence to determine that the school had engaged in discrimination….
The Daily Caller’s Robby Soave’s jaundiced interpretation of the long and carefully worded letter under the misleading headline, “Experts slam DOJ letter telling schools to implement race-based punishments,” is typical of how it has been treated by the right-leaning media:
“The letter, released on Wednesday, states that it is a violation of federal law for schools to punish certain races more than others, even if those punishments stem from completely neutral rules. For example, equal numbers of black students and white students should be punished for tardiness, even if black students are more often tardy than white students”