Discrimination Against Children of Color Begins in Preschool, Says New Study

The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released on March 21 by the Education Department’s civil rights arm. Turns out, black students are more likely than other racial groups to be suspended from U.S. public schools, even as preschoolers.

African-American 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.

Minority Students Most Subject to Suspensions

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have targeted mostly 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.

As The Daily Beast reports:

In 2012, for instance the Department of Education found that blacks accounted for 35 percent of students suspended at least once, and 39 percent of all expulsions. This, despite the fact that African Americans are just 18 percent of the total student population.

And of course, there are particular places where the rates of suspension and expulsion are insane. Of the students suspended under zero tolerance policies in New Orleans in 2009, for instance, all of them were black.

Earlier studies have found that these high suspension rates for black students, and especially males, exist among older students as well, Yale associate professor Walter Gilliam said. The race gap “was bad then, and it’s bad now,” Gilliam said. “You don’t have to be able to split hairs to see how disproportionate it is.”

Not Just Expulsion: Also About Referrals and Remedial Classes

It’s not just about being kicked out. The Daily Beast reports that compared to their white counterparts, black boys are three times more likely to be placed in remedial or “problem” classes, as opposed to receiving counseling or a diagnosis. In 70 percent of school-related arrests, it is black or Latino students who are involved. The same goes for referrals to law enforcement; in one Mississippi school district, for example, 33 out of every 1,000 students have been arrested or referred to a juvenile detention center, the vast majority of whom were black.

This Is All Part of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Social-justice activists have been raising the alarm for years now about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which the ACLU describes ”as a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” It works like this: students, especially students of color, are hit with outrageous and disproportionate disciplinary measures in the school system.

This causes them to fall behind in their classes, but it can also result in students being suspended or shuffled off to separate classes for troublemakers. This of course results in higher dropout rates and eventually higher imprisonment rates.

There are myriad reasons why this is happening, but at least in some parts of the U.S., more enlightened thinking is taking over.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is the name of a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to “zero tolerance” policies like suspension, expulsion and truancy courts.

Since suspending students, or sending them to court, often leads to academic failure, thereby perpetuating the very behavior it is seeking to address, restorative justice instead provides a way of addressing negative behavior by keeping a student at school and using various means to encourage the offender to take responsibility and make amends.

The approach, which is now taking root in schools in Oakland, Calif., as well as Chicago, Denver and Portland, tries to nip problems and violence in the bud by creating stronger and more open relationships between students, teachers and administrators.

This is an important step forward, but I think we need to look at the statistics about minority preschoolers, and ask ourselves why these young children are so angry? Why do they need to act out? The answer will take us far beyond the education system.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson5 years ago

Equal rights, not Privileges.

Warren Webber
Warren Webber5 years ago

Live long & prosper!

Nikolas K.
Nikolas K5 years ago

This is just another lesson to wake up parents to be the ones to educate their children rather than a corrupted system implemented by the banksters who use the conflicts to take away more of our rights to enable them to implement their agenda of total enslavement.

BJ J5 years ago

WTF is going on in schools these days?!?! 6 yr. old boy got suspended for kissing a 6 yr. old girl's hand (he'd previously kissed her cheek), a 2 (?) yr. old child got suspended from day care for having a peanut butter sandwich & now preschool kids suspended for acting up & racial issues. No wonder more people home school their kids - schools sound like pre-prison, teachers & administrators are out of control.

sharyn w.
sharyn w5 years ago

Judy Molland the writer of this article is at the very least prejudiced. Even thought she is bringing this to the attention of some who're not aware of this issue and I'm not one of the unaware. Before any of you jump on my case because I say she is prejudiced wait. I stated that based on the last paragraph of her article right above you and I. Her words not mind "ask ourselves why these young children are so angry"? and "Why do they need to act out''? Prejudice means prejudge. She's prejudging that the young children are angry based on no evidence of that. In my opinion the young children are probably 'frustrated' as so many young children are for various reasons as many people know who have had young children and/or been around young children. Acting out is a reaction to a current situation. In the cases of young children they possibly do this because they can't verbally express their emotions(painful, conflicted etc) whatever those emotions happen to be. So instead of using the racially charged word angry in reference to black children is 'stereotyping'. "The angry black person" is a code word for 'threatening black person'( in this case children). If they were non-black(white, Asian) children the word would have mostly likely been called frustrated and not angry. ps don't assume I'm black/African American because of my statement. Just read it with out bias and from every point of view whether you agree or disagree with my statement.

Fi T.
Past Member 5 years ago

The discrimination is pointless and unjust

Azaima A.
Azaima A5 years ago

so sad

Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago

That's not true everywhere.

Sarah clevenger
Sarah clevenger5 years ago

young children also pick up on steryotypes fast. On tv (even cartoons) or in magazines it's always the girl with blond hair and blue eyes that's popular and beautiful. society just puts people with fair skin on a pedstal , the only people who usually realize this are those who don't fit that mold.