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Racial inequality starts in preschool

July 15, 2016
Esther Canty-Barnes
New Republic

Studies show that black boys have a greater risk of suspension.

When these children enter school, they have unique needs. Many are ill-prepared for the social, emotional and academic rigor that is anticipated and required. Conversely, many schools are not prepared to handle the needs of children who have been victims of poverty, trauma or who have special education needs. Preschool experience could help prepare children for learning in academic, social and emotional spheres of elementary education. In my role as a clinical professor of law and director of the Education and Health Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School, it is not uncommon for me to represent parents of young children who have been suspended or have had a history of being suspended as early as preschool or kindergarten. . .

According to the 2016 OCR report, black boys were at greater risk for preschool suspensions. Even though preschool boys represented almost 20 percent of enrolled preschoolers, they represented 45 percent of male students receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions. Even more problematic were the statistics for black girls. Although they represented 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, they accounted for over 50 percent of female students with one or more out of school suspensions. A national pre-kindergarten study conducted in 2005 identified similar disparities with respect to these vulnerable children. That study, conducted by Walter S. Gilliam at Yale University, concluded that preschool children were expelled at a rate of more than three times that of students in K-12. According to the same report, African-American children attending state-funded preschools were about twice as likely to be expelled as Latino and Caucasian children. More than 10 years has passed since this study, and the problem still persists.