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Racial Disparities in School Discipline Show Up in Preschool

Racial disparities in discipline at U.S. public schools begin as early as preschool, with black children disproportionately more likely to be suspended than whites, according to an Education Department report.

The Office for Civil Rights examined data from 97,000 public schools representing 49 million students in a report released today.

“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,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The report paints a bleak picture of the opportunity gap between black and white students in access to advanced courses, college counselors and experienced teachers, as well as showcasing disparities in school punishment. While black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they account for 42 percent of students suspended once and 48 percent of those barred multiple times.

Students who have been suspended are less likely to graduate on time, according to the report. They are also more likely to be suspended again, repeat a grade, drop out or become involved in the juvenile justice system.

“For generations, we have called public education ‘the great equalizer,’ but in too many places, we’re not living up to that promise,” said Becca Bracy Knight, executive director of the Broad Center, a nonprofit group that recruits and trains superintendents and other education managers in urban areas.

In high school, 57 percent of black students and 67 percent of Latino students have access to a full range of math and science courses including calculus and physics. That compares with 81 percent of Asian-American and 71 percent of white students, according to the report.

The data is from the 2011-2012 school year.

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