Black preschoolers are more likely to be suspended than any other race as revealed in a report released by the civil rights arm of the Educational Department. Disparities have long been known to exist in higher grades, however the report reveals it can be linked to children as young as 4-years-old.
Black students only make up about 20 percent of preschoolers, yet represent 50% of preschoolers suspended more than once. In all grades Black students are suspended more than White students and Black girls are suspended more than any other race and suspended almost more than Black boys. Advocates have previously made the link that suspension increases the school-to-jail trend that snares most minority students. Suspension rates of middle and high school students were used as a benchmark in previous years but this is the first time children this young were considered.
Some schools had already begun to look at their disciplinary practices as a result of this disparity; however the reason to why it exists in the first place or why the children were even suspended was not readily available. The Obama administration issued guideline practices earlier this year encouraging schools to abandon their fanatical discipline practices that refer students to court as oppose to the principal’s office. This practice only serves to de detrimental to the child fast tracking them to a life of crime and we now know it starts as early as preschool.
The national study surveying 60 public school districts during the 2011-2012 school years reported 1 million children were served in preschool programs. Of those 1 million children 5, 000 were suspended once and 2,500 were suspended more than once. Out of these numbers half of the students suspended were Black. Everything about these findings are unsettling, regardless of race what danger can a preschooler represent that suspension is the only option? Public schools across the board have been using a zero tolerance policy as it refers to behavior, explaining the suspension rates in general, however that does not explain why Black preschoolers are suspended in greater numbers.
Some experts believe high suspension rates are directly related to the quality of education black preschoolers receive. The belief is public schools in general or schools in the inner cities, with the highest number of Black students, lack qualified staff. The inexperience of the staff is a correlation to the inability to handle adversity thereby instead of offering other solutions the only answer is suspension.
Some schools are practicing more positive, holistic approaches such as changing the learning environment having one-on-one interactions with the child and really trying to get to the root of the problem, resorting to suspension only after all other options were exhausted. Suspension is essentially removing the child from their learning environment, how can this be beneficial to the child, especially a preschooler? Black preschoolers are suspended more only serves to label the child as early as 4-years-old as a problem child and this label will most likely follow them to kindergarten and throughout middle school. Preschool children regardless of race are just that, children, what can a preschooler do that warrants suspension? In hindsight suspension only serves to relieve the teachers of their responsibility for a few days, and upset the parents’ schedule. A preschooler doesn’t understand why they are not in school and a middle school/high school student typically welcomes a few days off. Black preschoolers are suspended more than Whites, however the rates are too high for all preschoolers.
By Debra Pittman