Racial Disproportionality in Early Childhood Discipline

Rosemarie Allen (Used with permission)
Rosemarie Allen (Used with permission)

by Rosemarie Allen, PhD

Ten Facts About Racial Disparities in Preschool Discipline:

  1. Studies spanning more than four decades reveal that African American children are nearly four times more likely to be suspended than White students (Bradshaw et al., 2010; Children’s Defense Fund, 1975; Milner, 2013; Skiba et al., 2011).
  2. A study conducted in 2005 by Yale University showed preschoolers were expelled at three times the rate of children expelled from Kindergarten through twelfth grades combined.
  3. A Colorado discipline study conducted in 2006, found that 10 children per 1,000 were expelled from early childhood programs, which was nearly four times the rate of K-12 grades combined (Hoover, et al., 2006).
  4. A 2009 survey of Boulder County Colorado early care and education providers showed children of color comprised the largest group of expelled children, at 13 per 1,000 (Greenberg & Ash, 2011).
  5. The United States Department of Education’s, 2016 Civil Rights Data Report, showed that approximately 7,500 preschoolers were suspended. The data also revealed that Black children comprise only 19 % of the preschool population, but nearly half of all suspensions. African American girls are 54 percent of preschool girls suspended and are only 20 percent of the preschool female population (United States Department of Education, 2016).
  6. Research shows students who are suspended are more likely to perform poorly in school, drop out of high school, and engage in delinquent behavior (Losen & Skiba, 2010).
  7. It has also been shown suspended children have lower academic success than those who were not suspended (Rausch & Skiba, 2004).
  8. Students who are suspended also spend less time in classroom instruction, resulting in lower reading scores and they ultimately disengage from school (Arcia, 2006; Gregory et al., 2010).
  9. When children are subjected to exclusionary discipline practices such as suspension and expulsion, they are 10 times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system (American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force, 2008).
  10. The disproportionate number of children of color suspended from school and subsequently involved in the juvenile justice system contributes to the preschool to prison pipeline (Advancement Project, 2010).

What can professionals do to CHANGE this?

  • Address Implicit Bias

Issues of bias and deficit thinking must be addressed to balance the inequities in disciplinary practices. Implicit bias is defined as unconscious beliefs and stereotypes (Banks, Eberhardt & Ross, 2006). There is evidence that disproportionality in disciplinary practices is impacted by teachers’ responses to perceived behaviors that are based on racial stereotypes and implicit bias (McIntosh, et al., 2015).  Teachers who view African Americans as dangerous and difficult to control are more likely to use punitive disciplinary measures such as suspensions and expulsions (Monroe, 2005).

  • Use the Pyramid Model

This model provides early childhood personnel with the tools to promote and enhance social emotional development in young children. The Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) defines social-emotional development as the ability of children age birth to five to identify, experience and respond appropriately to a variety of emotions.  Early childhood professionals use the Pyramid Model to promote social-emotional competence by intentionally teaching skills for expressing emotions, making friends, developing relationships with adults and other children, in the context of the child’s family and community (Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, 2008).

To learn more about implicit bias and its impacts in your professional environment, join us for the MFLN Virtual Conference Sept. 26-29.  Rosemarie will have a session on Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. EST entitled “Implicit Bias:  From Awareness to Positive Change.”  To learn more about the full conference, click here.

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