Black Preschoolers: 18% of Students, but 48% of Those Suspended More Than Once

Monday, March 24, 2014

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education shows that nearly 5,000 preschoolers were suspended from school during the 2011-2012 academic year. What’s even more alarming is that black children comprised 48% of those suspended more than once despite being only 18% of the student body.


“Here we are, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the data altogether still show a picture of gross inequity in educational opportunity,” Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project, said, according to The New York Times.


The data surprised Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This preschool suspension issue is mind-boggling,” Duncan said. “And we need to as a nation find a way to remedy that tomorrow.” Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at a Washington D.C. elementary school about the results of the report.


Holder has been a point man for the Obama administration on the reform of school discipline. “But at the end of the day,” Holder said, “they’re four-year-olds. They’re five-year-olds. They’re six-year-olds. And when you see these disparate numbers…you have to wonder: What is it that we are doing? Why are we seeing these numbers?  It’s not because these kids are fundamentally different. I think that’s the kind of things we have to understand. We are getting disparate treatment here.”


Minority children overall are suspended and expelled from schools at a rate three times that of white children, according to The Center for Public Integrity. The Center has reported that those expelled are often forced to drop out of school entirely or be put in independent study programs.


Losen said a more appropriate response to a pre-schooler’s misbehavior would be to move the child into a different setting with more services, according to the Associated Press. “Most preschool kids want to be in school,” Losen said. “Kids just don't understand why they can't go to school.”


The findings upset Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  “To see that young African-American students—or babies, as I call them—are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” she told The Times. “It’s incredible to think about or fathom what pre-K students could be doing to get suspended from schools.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Data Snapshot: School Discipline (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights) (pdf)

Holder, Duncan Stunned By Discipline Figures (by Susan Ferriss, Center for Public Integrity)

Black Preschoolers More Likely To Face Suspension (by Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press)

School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial Lines (by Motoko Rich, New York Times)

Black Students More Likely to be Punished for Same Infractions as White Students (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Most Middle School Black Students in Milwaukee Suspended at Least Once (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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