Pre-K Prejudice?

Harsher punishments for African-American students start in preschool, according to a new Department of Education analysis:

Black children constitute 18 percent of all kids attending preschool but account for 48 percent of all students suspended more than once, the new data show. 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.

Earlier studies have found that these high suspension rates for black students – males in particular – 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.” Gilliam’s own research has found high expulsion rates among black preschoolers, but there has been little prior research on suspension.

Bouie notes that the disparities aren’t limited to suspensions:

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. School-related arrests are depressingly common, and in 70 percent of cases, they involve black or Latino students. 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 has far-reaching consequences. Suspensions lead to more absences, as students become disconnected from the school. In one study of 180,000 Florida students, researchers found that just one suspension in ninth grade can drastically reduce a student’s chance of graduating in four years.

Marcotte sees a larger problem:

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. At best, that 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, causing higher dropout rates and the subsequent higher unemployment and imprisonment rates. Sometimes schools turn to the police, who then arresting kids for minor infractions, treating them as criminals instead of young students who need support.

Related Dish on the subject here.