WASHINGTON — Black students — even tiny preschoolers — are more likely than white students to be suspended from public school, a study disclosed Friday.
It has been well-documented that black children in elementary, middle and high school are more likely than white kids to be disciplined.
But for the first time, the U.S. Education Department examined suspensions in preschool. It found that out of 1 million kids in public preschool in the 2011-2012 school year, 5,000 were suspended.
While black children represented 18% of the enrollment, they make up almost half of the preschoolers suspended at least once.
Advocates have complained that get-tough suspension and arrest policies by school administrators contribute to a "school-to-prison'' pipeline that snags minority students.
The report suggest that the pattern begins with kids as young as four years old.
The data doesn't explain why the racial disparities exist or why the students were suspended, but officials called the findings troubling.
There are a variety of stories out there on the Internets looking at suspension rates in charter schools around the country and pointing out how they harm children of color in cities like Washington D.C., New Haven and New York City.
And of course Eva Moskowitz and Success Academies is one of the leading suspenders of children in the country, championing a "no excuses!" code that sees children getting suspended for, well, pretty much anything as this Juan Gonzalez piece from August 2013 shows:
Success Academy, the charter school chain that boasts sky-high student scores on annual state tests, has for years used a “zero tolerance” disciplinary policy to suspend, push out, discharge or demote the very pupils who might lower those scores — children with special needs or behavior problems.
State records and interviews with two dozen parents of Success elementary school pupils indicate the fast-growing network has failed at times to adhere to federal and state laws in disciplining special-education students.
At Harlem Success 1, the oldest school in the network, 22% of pupils got suspended at least once during the 2010-11 school year, state records show. That’s far above the 3% average for regular elementary schools in its school district.
Four other Success schools — the only others in the network to report figures for 2010-11 — had an average 14% suspension rate.
Success Academy chief Eva Moskowitz recently defended her network’s “higher than average” suspension rates compared with public schools as a way to promote “order and civility in the classroom.” And this week, the Eli Broad Foundation announced a $5 million grant to Moskowitz to help expand her network from 20 to more than 100 schools.
Those schools outperform city schools on state tests: This year, 82% of the network’s students met standards in math and 58% met standards in English, compared with just less than 30% who were proficient in math and 26% in English citywide.
But The News found a disturbing number of suspension cases where the network’s administrators removed special-education pupils from normal classrooms for weeks and even months, while at the same time pressuring their parents to transfer them to regular public schools.
Take, for example, Idiatou Diallo of Tremont, the Bronx, and her three children.
Her boy, Alhassana, and two girls, Houssainatou and Hassanatou, triplets who are now 8, were born premature, suffer from chronic illness and need speech and physical therapy. All three were admitted to Bronx Success 1 last August for first grade — having commuted to Bedford-Stuyvesant Success 1 for all of kindergarten after Success officials told their mother there were no available seats in their home borough.
“Right away, the school started calling me, telling me my children were having a tough time and misbehaving,” Diallo said. “They threatened they’d kick them out of school if I didn’t transfer them.”
Alhassana and Houssainatou were repeatedly slapped with suspensions for violating school rules, despite having detailed individual education plans that instructed teachers on managing their anger outbursts.
On Nov. 27, Alhassana got a two-day suspension for “purposely walking with his eyes closed and hurting another scholar.”
In March, he got a 15-day suspension for “stomping on a teacher’s hand” and “throwing the teacher’s cell phone to the ground.”
His sister Houssainatou was only permitted to attend school for half a day for more than two months because of her behavior problems, her mother said.
“That was an illegal act of exclusion without any due process,” said Nelson Mar, an attorney from Bronx Legal Services, who filed formal complaints to the school on behalf of the children.
Federal law requires schools that suspend a special-education pupil for more than 10 days to seek an impartial hearing on whether the child’s behavior is related to his disability.
Success officials deny improper treatment of any pupils.
“We have no such policies and have no practice of ‘counseling out,’ ” network spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis said last month.
After Mar secured an impartial hearing this spring with the Department of Education, individual paraprofessionals were assigned to both Alhassana and Houssainatou during the school day. Their suspensions dropped dramatically and their academic performance has improved.
But Patrice Joseph, another parent of a special-education child, was not so successful. She withdrew her son Keith and daughter Naomi last week from Harlem Success 4.
“I’m tired of all the fighting,” Joseph said this week.
Keith, 10, who suffers from attention deficit disorder, started first grade at Success 4 in August 2008.
“They were constantly calling me because he wasn’t sitting up straight or because he was throwing a tantrum, and they wanted me to transfer him out,” Joseph said.
In mid-2010, Joseph challenged the school’s failure to provide her son needed services. She won a settlement that required that a paraprofessional be regularly assigned to him. That November, both Keith and Naomi, a kindergartner, were suddenly discharged from the school.
“They never even gave me written notice they were no longer enrolled,” Joseph said.
She got lawyer Mar involved, and the school quickly reinstated the children. That spring, Joseph was told Keith would have to repeat the second grade. Then, this past May, as he was finishing fourth grade, she was told he would have to repeat that grade, too.
“My son doesn’t want to go there anymore,” Joseph said.
Similar harrowing accounts have come from parents at a half dozen different Success schools, including claims that suspended children are not provided state-required alternative instruction.
“We abide by all federal and state law requirements that pertain to alternative instruction,” Sedlis said.
But in a review issued this spring on the progress of Harlem Success 2, 3 and 4, prior to granting those schools a five-year renewal of their charters, the State University of New York’s Charter Institute noted failings in student suspension policies.
“It was unclear that live instruction was consistently provided in accordance with New York’s compulsory education law,” the review said.
Juan Gonzalez reported in another column from August 2013 how parents had secretly taped officials at Success Academies trying to push students out of the school:
Call them the charter school tapes.
The parent of a special education kindergarten pupil at the Upper West Side Success Academy charter school secretly tape recorded meetings in which school administrators pressed her to transfer her son back into the public school system.
The tapes, a copy of which the mother supplied the Daily News, poke a hole in claims by the fast-growing Success Academy chain founded by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz that it doesn’t try to push out students with special needs or behavior problems.
Nancy Zapata said she resorted to the secret tapes last December and again in March after school officials used their “zero tolerance” discipline policy to repeatedly suspend her son, Yael, kept telephoning her at work to pick him up from school in the middle of the day and urged her to transfer him.
The News reported earlier this week that the Success network, which boasts some of the highest test scores in the city, also has far higher suspension rates than other elementary schools and that more than two dozen parents were claiming efforts to push their children out.
“There was a point when I was getting a call every day for every minor thing,” Zapata said. “They would say he was crying excessively, or not looking straight forward, or throwing a tantrum, or not walking up the stairs fast enough, or had pushed another kid.”
What school officials did not do, Zapata said, was provide the kind of special education services that her son’s individual educational plan, or IEP, requires.
That plan calls for daily speech therapy and occupational therapy for Yael. It also requires him to be placed in a smaller class, one staffed by both a regular teacher and a special education teacher.
At one point in the tapes, a Success official can be heard telling Zapata:
“We’re technically out of compliance because we aren’t able to meet what his IEP recommends for him.”
Asked about those remarks, a Success official would only say both the School District’s Special Education Committee and Success Academy now believe Yael should be transferred to a District 75 special education school.
In the tapes, however, another Success administrator is heard acknowledging that Yael’s tantrums are related to his speech disability.
“He is getting really frustrated when people can’t understand what he’s communicating, and you can’t blame him for that,” the administrator tells Zapata.
In a second meeting, the mother asks why Success admitted her son through a lottery but is not providing him all the services he needs.
“If they have those special education needs, you’re absolutely right that they need to be fulfilled,” an official replies, but then quickly adds that the network doesn’t offer smaller special ed classes in kindergarten.
“We will help them find the [appropriate] DOE placement,” the official says.
In other words, lottery or not, kindergarten kids like Yael who need smaller classes should find a public school that has one.
But Zapata has resisted the pressure to transfer her son.
When she accompanied him to the first day of school at Upper West Side Success last week, she was informed Yael will have to repeat kindergarten — the same grade that doesn’t have the special education class he needs.
“They’re trying to frustrate me enough to take him out,” Zapata said, “but I’m going to fight it.”
The Obama administration is attacking public schools for higher rates of suspensions for students of color, particularly black children, even as they champion charter schools like Success Academies that have much higher rates of suspensions and pushouts than district schools.
That's called hypocrisy, something we see from education reform advocates often, and something we see always when it comes to Eva Moskowitz.
Let me know when the clowns on the Morning Joe Clown Show hit Moskowitz over her insane suspension and pushout rates, will you?
And let me know when the concern trolls at the Obama DOE do the same, okay?
Because higher suspension rates for children of color, particularly for black children, are a big problem and something should be done about that problem.
We can start by doing an independent audit into charter schools around the country over their suspension and pushout rates - with a special focus on Eva Moskowitz and her Suspension, er, Success Academies here in New York City - and then putting a stop to what these charters are doing.