Black Preschoolers More Likely To Be Suspended, So Racial Disparity Starts Really, Really Young

It's hard to imagine what a child could possibly be suspended for in preschool, but thousands of preschoolers in U.S. public schools are kicked out each year, according to data from the Education Department. More than 8,000 preschoolers — little four- and five-year-olds! — were suspended from classes in 2011. And nearly half of those kids were black, showing that racial disparity in this country sure starts young.

The data needs to be explained a bit further, though. Among the nearly one million public-school preschoolers in the U.S., black children make up 48 percent of students suspended more than once, but only 18 percent of total enrollment. White children make up 43 percent of total enrollment, but only 26 percent of suspensions. And even though boys make up a little more than half of enrollment, they comprise 82 percent of multiple suspensions.

But the Office for Civil Rights data notes that 60 percent of all preschools are public schools. Of those schools, only six percent report suspending students. So the 48 percent of black students suspended is a part of the six percent slice of public schools.

Still, it's rather surprising to see how many little kids get suspended, and the skewed racial and gendered makeup of the suspensions.

Daniel Losen, a director at UCLA's Civil Rights Project, says that instead of suspending students who are acting out, educators should formulate alternative schooling for them. Suspension is simply doing them more harm than good, especially when they are just starting to learn outside of their homes.

"Almost none of these kids are kids that wouldn't be better off with some support from educators," Losen said. "Just kicking them out of school is denying them access to educational opportunity at such a young age. Then, as they come in for kindergarten, they are just that much less prepared."
"Most preschool kids want to be in school. Kids just don't understand why they can't go to school."

Philip Bump at The Wire writes: "Maybe black kids are more poorly behaved than white kids. Or maybe there is racism entrenched so deeply in American culture that it permeates to how we treat four-year-olds."

The Obama administration has encouraged schools that aggressively pursue suspension to be a bit more lax, so students can avoid court time. But these guidelines have targeted middle- and high-schoolers, Fox News reports.

So what can you be suspended for as a preschooler (or even younger)?

Probably for being too aggressive with other students, yelling at teachers, and not behaving. Also, for having a cheese sandwich, making finger guns, and having potty accidents.