By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s the most glaring piece of information in a pile of data pulled from almost every public school district across the country.

Word that more than 8,000 toddlers – 3-and 4-year olds – were suspended from school at least once during the 2011-2012 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

We’re talking about pre-school, where many say children are not supposed to be sent home at all.

And even more troubling to learn of racial disparities in the way discipline is being handed out.

Researchers found black children, who represent about 18-percent kids enrolled in pre-school programs, make-up almost half the number of those suspended more than once.

And other studies have shown similar disparities in the numbers of black pre-schoolers who are actually expelled,

We don’t hear very often about pre-school suspensions, but they do happen more often than you might think. Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 that students are expelled in pre-school at a higher rate than any other grade.

The practice is controversial, however, because experts say kids this age don’t learn from that kind of discipline. An official from think tank New America tells Politico Pro that kids don’t make the connection between their behavior and a suspension the way an older child might.

Reasons for the racial disparity are unclear.

But there is evidence that it continues right through grade school. Black students in K-12 schools represent an even smaller portion of the population, but 42-percent were suspended in that same school year.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz



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