Black students are more likely to be suspended from public school than white students, even as far back as preschool, according to a new government report.
The Department of Education’s civil rights division released its first report in nearly 15 years on Friday that includes data from all 97,000 public schools in the United States.
The report measures racial disparities in schools during the 2011-2012 year. The federal government has been collecting civil rights data about schools since 1968.
“This is astonishing. It’s unacceptable,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a joint press conference with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at an elementary school in Washington.
Forty percent of public school districts don’t even offer preschool, the report found. If it is available, it’s usually only offered for part of the day.
The study also found more than half of black students, Hispanic students and students with disabilities have less access than white and Asian-American students to a full range of courses in school.
“A great deal remains to be done to address the deficit of experience among educators who teach many of our students of color,” Holder said. “And some of the racial disparities in the administration of school discipline that are well documented among older students actually begin as early as preschool.”
The Obama administration is trying to end the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Holder added.
To address the issue, Holder and Duncan announced a sweeping new set of guidelines in January that try to reduce the overuse of zero-tolerance discipline policies.