Zero Tolerance

Pre-K Punishment

Zero tolerance, writ small


Zero tolerance has arrived in the pre-K set, and it's just as ugly in miniature.

Data released in April by the Department of Education's civil rights arm finds that black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in public 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.

Those trends nicely prepare kids to be funneled straight into the infamous school-to-prison pipeline awaiting them in middle and high school, in which kids who regularly find themselves on the wrong side of the principal eventually find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The report comes on the heels of a "school discipline guidance package" from the Departments of Justice and Education, which found that "95 percent of out-of-school suspensions were for nonviolent, minor disruptions such as tardiness or disrespect."

In other words, administrators are using discretionary, catch-all charges to boot kids out of school, especially black girls and boys.

"Overall," the April report notes, "the data shows that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that's three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys."

Stay tuned for the inevitable suspension of a preschooler for parroting parental profanity that they don't understand in 4, 3, 2, 1.