newark schools water crisis
Students in a Newark, New Jersey, charter school in 2013. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Suspension rates at public schools across the country decreased nearly 20 percent in the 2013-2014 school year compared with the 2011-2012 school year, but minority students are still much more likely to be disciplined than their white counterparts.

A national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education that surveyed over 50 million students in 95,000 schools found that the discrepancy between minority students and their peers can start as early as preschool, according to the Los Angeles Times. There were nearly 1.5 million preschoolers at just under 29,000 schools surveyed.

In the preschooler pool, 0.47 percent of the students received out-of-school suspensions once or more during the school year. Black girls represented 20 percent of enrolled students but accounted for 54 percent of the suspended population. Black preschoolers overall were 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.

The findings don’t “paint a very good picture,” Liz King, director of education policy at the Leadership for Civil and Human Rights, told the Times.

Public Schools Expenditure per Pupil Adjusted for Cost of Living | StartClass

In higher grades, that discrepancy was higher. There were 2.8 million students suspended once or more during the school year, and black students were suspended at four times the rate and expelled at nearly two times the rate of white students, according to the survey, the Civil Rights Data Collection.

Suspension programs have been under scrutiny. In Los Angeles, for instance, the local school district there banned suspensions in 2013, leading to a .55 percent drop in suspensions. Teachers were told to use “restorative justice” tactics to approach conflict resolution instead of sending students home. (The Times notes that teachers may not be adequately trained in those techniques.) Other school districts have also joined that fray. The Minneapolis public schools system, citing the targeting of minority students, banned suspensions in 2014. Houston’s public schools also banned suspensions for young students late last year.