Suspension disparity starts in preschool

Graphic by Bill Kuchman/POLITICO

Yes, it’s possible to be suspended from preschool — especially if you’re black. Black children make up 18 percent of preschoolers but 48 percent of students suspended more than once, according to the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

Across K-12 schools, black students represented 16 percent of the student population but 42 percent suspended more than once in the 2011-12 school year.

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    Who’s handing out the punishments?

    Blacks tend to favor more punitive punishments – they’re much more likely to spank as parents. If black kids are attending schools with primarily black administrators and teachers – as they frequently do here in Jersey – could the disproportionate number of black kids getting suspended be more about black cultural behavior regarding punishment and less to do with racism?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Meaning: Black teachers and administrators are using suspensions as a discipline more frequently than whites. Because many school districts are segregated this would disproportionately affect black kids.

  2. This report would be much more meaningful if it included the reasons for susupension, not just the race or gender of the child. At the preschool level, kids are typically suspended or expelled because they are causing harm to other kids–biting being a ususal reason.
    I thought this was interesting: “For these children, “there’s no connection between what kind of misbehavior a preschooler did in class to being suspended,” so kids are unlikely to learn from their mistakes, she explained..” I guess this reasoning isn’t applied to little kids who point a finger like a gun or hug a teacher or kiss a classmate on the playground.

  3. I am thinking of a kindergartener who terrorized her classmates; frequently cursed, spit, hit, kicked, bit, threw books, chairs etc, attacked classmates with scissors and was physically large enough to require 3 adults to remove her from the classroom. I’m guessing that behavior pattern also existed in preschool. Some kids shouldn’t be in regular classrooms because their impact on the rest of the class is too disruptive, or, in this case, too traumatic.

  4. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    It’s not like someone takes kids in first grade, mind-wipes them, then hands out personalities at random.

    Why //wouldn’t// you expect behavior patterns to be similar across all grades, including pre-school?

  5. PhillipMarlowe says:
  6. mutecypher says:

    Blacks make up 12.8% of the population and account for 38.9% of arrests for violent crimes (US census data: and are the victims of 47.9% of homicides. It seems like a reasonable hypothesis that whatever drives this behavior is present at a young age.

    I’d like to see data to test Stacy’s suggestion that black administrators are more punitive than others. It would be useful to know if this is true.

  7. The 2-R allele of the MOAO gene is about 20 times more common in US blacks than US whites viz. .2% in whites and more than 4% in US blacks. US whites are about 36% 3-R and 62% 4-R. US blacks are about 52% 3-R and 43% 4-R.

  8. Instead of viewing suspensions as “punishment”, and taking the short hop from there to “racism”, perhaps we should look at suspensions as “markers of anti-social/inappropriate behavior”. No, can’t do that, that’s “blaming the victim”. How did we allow ourselves to get tied into such semantic knots?

    • George Larson says:

      I find this very amusing. The government is calling a group of its staunchest supporters, the teacher’s unions, a bunch of racists.