Racial disparities in public school students suspended starts in preschool

The Associated Press

** HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL 12:01 A.M. EDT ON FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014 ** FILE - In this March 14, 2014, file photo, Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks to reporters during briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Even preschoolers are getting suspended from U.S. public schools, and they're disproportionately black, a trend that continues up through the later grades. Data to be released Friday, March 21, 2014, by the Education Department's civil rights arm finds that black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students suspended more than once. Six percent of the nation's districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child. "It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed," Duncan said in a statement. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

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Kimbrelle Lewis, principal of Raleigh-Bartlett Meadows Elementary School in Memphis, said she's never suspended a child in her school's preschool program and would only consider it in an "extreme circumstance." She said her district provides behavior specialists and other services to children with discipline problems so strategies can be worked out with teachers and parents if preschoolers need additional support.

If there are racial disparities among preschoolers disciplined, "I do think it's something to look it. I think it's a conversation to have," said Lewis, who served on a committee with the National Association of Elementary School Principals looking at issues affecting younger school children.

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