- Suspension of preschool children, by race/ethnicity and gender (new for 2011-2012 collection): Black children represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension; in comparison, white students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension. Boys represent 79% of preschool children suspended once and 82% of preschool children suspended multiple times, although boys represent 54% of preschool enrollment.
- Disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color: Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16% of black students. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1% of the student population but 2% of out-of-school suspensions and 3% of expulsions.
- Disproportionate suspensions of girls of color: While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys; American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls (7%) are suspended at higher rates than white boys (6%) or girls (2%).
- Suspension of students with disabilities and English learners: Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension (13%) than students without disabilities (6%). In contrast, English learners do not receive out-of-school suspensions at disproportionately high rates (7% suspension rate, compared to 10% of student enrollment).
What’s worse (yes, it gets worse) is that a study based on 2003-2004 data found that:
Nationally, 6.67 preschoolers were expelled per 1,000 enrolled. Although this rate for state-subsidized prekindergarten is lower than what has been previously reported for child care programs, the prekindergarten expulsion rate is 3.2 times the rate for K-12 students. Rates are reported for each of the states and state prekindergarten systems represented. Significant cross state variability in expulsion rates was found, possibly due in part to differences in how state prekindergarten systems are structured. Rates were highest for older preschoolers and African-Americans, and boys were over 41⁄2 times more likely to be expelled than were girls.
This study was conducted on “3,898 prekindergarten classrooms (81.0% response rate), representing all of the nation’s 52 state-funded prekindergarten systems currently operating across 40 states.”
As noted in the study, “Although there has been considerable media attention to the issue of young students – kindergarteners and preschoolers – being suspended or expelled from their educational programs, almost no research exists on the topic.”
The purpose of such (or any) research, studies, or hard data is intended to bolster arguments against systemic inequities—not simply research for research’s sake. No new studies are needed. It’s time for concrete work to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline to be supported. Resources for teachers who may hold unconscious bias towards students of color—who see them as problems that need to be managed instead of children who will do what children do—is one idea. Another great move would be to remove law enforcement (euphemistically referred to as “school resource officers”) from school campuses, and decriminalize behavior that used to be referred to guidance counselors and principals.