The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released on Friday by the Education Department’s civil rights arm.
The suspensions — and disparities — begin at the earliest grades.
Black children represent about 18% of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students 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.
“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.”