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Black preschoolers more likely to face suspension

Public preschool

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Black students are more likely to be suspended from U.S. public schools - even as tiny preschoolers.

The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released Friday by the Education Department's civil rights arm.

The suspensions - and disparities - begin at the earliest grades.

Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation's districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a "school-to-prison" pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued guidance encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal's office. But even before the announcement, school districts have been adjusting policies that disproportionately affect minority students.

Overall, the data show that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that's three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys.

The data doesn't explain why the disparities exist or why the students were suspended.

"It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

"This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities."

Nationally, 1 million children were served in public preschool programs, with about 60 percent of districts offering preschool during the 2011-2012 school year, according to the data. The data show nearly 5,000 preschoolers were suspended once. At least 2,500 were suspended more than once.

Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies for the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, said the findings are disturbing because the suspended preschoolers aren't likely presenting a danger, such as a teenager bringing a gun to school.

"Almost none of these kids are kids that wouldn't be better off with some support from educators," Losen said. "Just kicking them out of school is denying them access to educational opportunity at such a young age. Then, as they come in for kindergarten, they are just that much less prepared."

Losen said it's appropriate to discipline a 4-year-old, but a more appropriate response might be moving them to a different educational setting with additional services.

"Most preschool kids want to be in school," Losen said. "Kids just don't understand why they can't go to school."

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a think tank that specializes in social issues affecting minority communities, said the findings didn't surprise her.

"I think most people would be shocked that those numbers would be true in preschool, because we think of 4- and 5-years-olds as being innocent," she said. "But we do know that schools are using zero tolerance policies for our youngest also, that while we think our children need a head start, schools are kicking them out instead."

Kimbrelle Lewis, principal of Raleigh-Bartlett Meadows Elementary School in Memphis, said she's never suspended a child in her school's preschool program and would only consider it in an "extreme circumstance." She said her district provides behavior specialists and other services to children with discipline problems so strategies can be worked out with teachers and parents if preschoolers need additional support.

If there are racial disparities among preschoolers disciplined, "I do think it's something to look at. I think it's a conversation to have," said Lewis, who served on a committee with the National Association of Elementary School Principals looking at issues affecting younger school children.

Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association teachers' union, said in a statement that the findings show that "too many children don't have equitable access to experienced and fully licensed teachers."

"The inequities detailed in this report have been caused, at least in part, by policies that disregard the professionalism of teaching and create a revolving door of under-prepared and under-supported novices who leave before they've reached the levels of mastery required to truly make a difference," Van Roekel said.


Follow Kimberly Hefling on Twitter: http://twitter.com/khefling

Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jessejholland

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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snsndse March 22 2014 at 4:11 AM

We have to realize that children who are raised in a home with the idea that they can do whatever they want and if they get caught can alway blame racism. Sad but true. I am sick of it, Black parents have got to teach their children right from wrong and if they do not they end up on the wrong side of the law....Why don't the black teachers try to teach in the mostly black neighborhoods?

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authorlrea March 21 2014 at 2:14 PM

When I lived in Japan I was kicked out of beginning school 3 times and was the only mixed blood kid. I was also a problem child my parents eventually held responsible for my actions rather than expecting educators to do their job. Maybe this holds some truth here too?

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mom March 21 2014 at 1:59 PM

me, I blame the parent, not the child. they are babies 4&5 years old. obey comes from the home.not from the school. I have 3 children. and never went though that. Iam from the old school.shame on you to let babies tell you what to do.

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Larna J. Keane; March 21 2014 at 1:58 PM

If this is something that you think is newsworthy I would have to ask you WHY? !! It seems like Media powers love to stir up feelings of hurt and negativity. I don't know if in our household we would even want to believe your report...... Leave the peace that has begun and go away.

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1 reply
brentdlots Larna J. Keane; March 21 2014 at 2:25 PM

I don't believe a lot of peace has "begun" for the kids being born in the slums, do you? Are you against doing studies to learn more about the situation?

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joe75616 March 21 2014 at 1:49 PM

I want to put blame where it should fall on the PARENTS, quit blaming all ills on someone else and the teachers, parents are their childs 1st teacher and teach them whats right and whats wrong but most dont know the difference

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Daren Miller March 21 2014 at 1:40 PM

Disparities and teachers are one of the issues. Who wants to work in a war zone. Where are Jesse and Al and BO? Spending more money is not going to fix the education system's problem.

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1 reply
brentdlots Daren Miller March 21 2014 at 2:23 PM

Daren, what IS going to fix it?

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DocLagos March 21 2014 at 1:39 PM

Is this supposed to be some groundbreaking secret? This has been known and practiced all across America over the last 50 years. They didnt give a damn back then when they began this practice and surely they won't give a damn now!! Afterall, this is AMERIKKKA!!!

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Stephen B. March 21 2014 at 1:36 PM

Another article from the civil rights branch of the goverment throwing out the race card aimed to make whites feel guilty because they have no other way to justify the research money they are going to demand when they push for more funding. Personally IMO its time Black America for all its good and bad stand up and take some responsiblity for what the see as disparities in all walks of life. It is no longer a country where the well is full and I for one want you out of my pockets. If your kids are being sent home maybe you should look at what your doing at home that is causing these kids to be disruptive and expelled or suspended. The same can be said for those whites who are on the same dole so this is not a race thing but a family thing and if you cannot raise your kids with morals and knowing the difference between right and wrong then quit having kids.

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1 reply
sudcornwell Stephen B. March 21 2014 at 1:46 PM

I could not have said it better....

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2 replies
brentdlots sudcornwell March 21 2014 at 2:16 PM

And you would be equally wrong. Anyone thinking there is racial and social equality in this country and that a black kid born in Detroit is going to have the same opportunities as a white kid born in middle class America in simply ignoring the obvious.

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Odens Fist sudcornwell March 21 2014 at 5:56 PM

Sorry Brent, the white kid had it better because his parents DID better for him, it's time for those that blame WHITEY for all of their issues to stand up and be held accountable for the problems they have created within their own little part of society that they themselves perpetuate, and have for the last 30 years. The numbers do not lie.

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super dad March 21 2014 at 1:35 PM

No comment from me is needed. Many below point out that single parent households, run by uneducated dropouts, are a major cause. Until the minority community adresses that issue, nothing will change.

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Adam March 21 2014 at 1:27 PM

71% of ALL blacks born today are born to single mothers. Thats it. Thats the issue. No way you will reverse this issue until you ADDRESS that issue and the black community WONT.

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1 reply
brentdlots Adam March 21 2014 at 2:22 PM

And how do you suggest that issue be addressed?

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