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BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education  

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African American - black-kindergarten-grade-school student
African American - black-kindergarten-grade-school student (Getty)

Photo: Getty Images

*The school to prison pipeline starts as early as preschool for our youngest Black learners.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (2016-2017), Black children face issues with preschool access and exclusion, and are prone to receive harsher discipline than non-Black students who display the same behavior.

Statistics show that Black children are 15% of the K-12th grade student population; however, they are 36% of students suspended at least once. Too many Black early learners are bounced around between multiple preschools or childcare programs like urban nomads.

During the height of the George Floyd protests, a group of African American men with professional experience in education, policy, research and social work formed Black Men for Educational Equity (BMEE) to address implicit bias in early education. Over the last five months, BMEE examined the disparities and inequalities that exist in the system for young Black children and have created a plan of action for addressing these systemic issues.

To combat this problem, BMEE is calling on the California Legislature to ensure that Black preschoolers are not excluded from important educational components and success through implicit bias and structural racism. Having access to quality preschool, fair treatment in the classroom, and equal opportunity for success are all crucial components in helping our Black preschool students succeed now, and for generations to come.

Too often, the three “B’s” predict a preschooler’s risk of expulsion: “big, Black and boy.” Black children are expelled at twice the rate of white children, particularly if they are bigger or taller than their peers. Research reveals this is less about the physical characteristics of the child and more about what is going on in the teacher’s mind, than what the child is doing. Although there is great need in California for preschool and childcare services, preschool is not compulsory.

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BMEE Authors

BMEE Authors
Top Row: Khieem Jackson, Jason Henderson, Ayo Taylor. Dr. J.Luke Wood
Bottom Row: Dr. Joseph F. Johnson, Chad Owes, Adonai Mack and Khaim Morton.

Preschools in California currently can exclude students prior to even attempting to teach them based on subjective behavioral expectations. These unfounded behavioral expectations are often fraught with implicit bias and hidden from research as providers are not required to track or report reasons for exclusion, expulsion, or suspension. It is tantamount to expulsion without any process or notice of rights, and contrary to long term public policy.

Young Black children, particularly Black boys, are too often victims of an education system that fails them and stifles their potential to succeed. When Black children are held to different standards for learning and behavior and even worse, higher standards are seen for them in preschool, it furthers the systematic racial divide.

“It is important early education staff shift from destructive approaches to discipline and towards research-informed best practices,” commented Dr. Judy D. White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. “The Research is clear that when teachers are supported with resources and evidence-based training, preschool can help young children build crucial social-emotional and pre academic skills. A child’s ability to successfully navigate social and emotional learning at a young age is a major factor in educational success.  Exclusionary discipline such as suspension isolates the children most in need of social-emotional development, and results in poor educational outcomes. We want all preschoolers to experience an inclusive and welcoming learning environment.”

While legislators have made efforts to address preschool accountability, such as AB 752 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) which proposes a series of interventions and referrals before expelling a child, there remains a hole the size of Mount Everest in California’s early learning accountability and teacher training system.

California should establish developmentally appropriate policies and structures to provide support to preschool providers by clarifying definitions for suspension and expulsion in preschool and providing due process.  Due process should come before any sort of expulsion to help ensure disciplinary practices are not abused. It is long past time for California to take measurable action to eliminate exclusionary practices that contribute to the preschool to prison pipeline.

African American - black-kindergarten-grade-school student

Photo: Getty Images

Preschool providers should collect and track data on rates of expulsion and suspension in early learning and preschool settings. At a minimum, four dominant categories should disaggregate the data. They are: sex, race, ethnicity, and disability status. Information could be housed locally and by the state. Preschool providers should also be required to provide due process before kicking a student out.

“California’s early learning and care system continues to suffer from historic and structural racism and sexism,” according to Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of schools. ”Policies and procedures such as incentivizing providers to expel children who are deemed ‘problematic’, paying a higher reimbursement for part-day preschool than full-day preschool and directing CalWORKS recipients to lower-quality childcare programs serves to perpetuate the inequities caused by structural racism and sexism.  Now that we know better, it’s time to do better.”

“BMEE is here to shake up the system and not maintain the status quo,” said Khaim Morton, owner KRM Strategies and BMME Member. KRM strategies specializes in the advancement and application of comprehensive legislation and government affairs strategies. “All Black children deserve an opportunity to succeed. Research shows that implicit bias demonizes Black children before they get to kindergarten. BMEE’s vision is to remove stigmas that Black preschoolers are subjected to and support policy solutions.”

BMEE Authors

BMEE Authors
Top Row: Khieem Jackson, Jason Henderson, Ayo Taylor. Dr. J.Luke Wood
Bottom Row: Dr. Joseph F. Johnson, Chad Owes, Adonai Mack and Khaim Morton.

About the Authors:
BMEE is a group of African American men with professional experience in education, policy, research and social work.

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Using Vernon Jones As An Example: How Much Should We Let Party Affiliation Define Us?

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Vernon Jones1

*Vernon Jones, a Democratic member of the Georgia House of Representatives has quickly become a household name.

Jones rose to the national spotlight in April 2020 after publicly criticizing his own Party and endorsed Trump for reelection. He later spoke at the Republican National Convention, garnering both criticism and adulation from amongst his peers and the public.

Now once again Jones is catching the eyes of the public as his actions in recent weeks have left many people in repudiation or admiration of him. Jones has busied himself with peddling the false narrative of the U.S Presidential Election being hijacked by those on the “left.”

Speaking to a crowd of Trump supporters in Georgia a few days after the election, the state representative shared his false and misguided view of the election being manipulated, specifically focusing on ballots cast and counted in the state which he believed to be illegitimate.

However, wide consensus states that no voter fraud took place and that the allegations currently being pushed by Mr. Jones and even the White House are simply unsubstantiated. But I digress, the point of me writing this piece is to say that Jones’ actions are an enigma to Democratic leaders and to everyday affiliates of the party.

Nikema Williams, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia called him: “An embarrassment” who fails at representing the values of the party.

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Vernon Jones Pic

Vernon Jones

Jones has frequently stated in interviews and public speeches that his advocacy on the part of Trump stems from what he views as the President’s championing of Black issues. Arguing that Trump’s work in the areas of education and criminal justice reform is admirable and should incentivize Blacks to vote Republican. Such work includes permanent annual funding for HBCUs and school choice, along with the First Step Act.

Like Mrs. Williams, I also do not agree with Jones’ political views or his support for Trump, but I challenge her (and others) when it comes to a party-by-ideology characterization of him. I believe the displeasure Democrats hold towards Jones lies solely not in his misguided support of an incompetent President and conspiracy theories, but rather in that he identifies as a Democrat while heavily advocating for Republicans and their platform along with him possibly being Black. However, people need to realize that political affiliation and race do not always coincide with beliefs and opinions.

It is possible to be both a Democrat and a pro-life supporter just as much as it is to be a Republican and a pro-choice defender. It’s also possible to be Black and anti-police reform or White and for police-reform. You cannot attach expectations onto people due to a label.  Left, Right, Liberal, and Conservative are just pointless classifications used to categorize people in order to simplify their sometimes-unique beliefs and opinions. While, people’s association with Democrats and Republicans is merely based on what party they feel at a point in time is more closely aligned with their personal beliefs and doctrines. In other words, people’s connection to such labels can change at a moment’s whim.

Vernon Jones

Vernon Jones

In any case, Jones has done nothing of significance to earn widespread attention. Frankly, he would not even be a topic of conversation if he was registered as a Republican supporting Donald Trump or White. Therefore, it’s hard not to assume that Jones has largely only been given media attention due to his labels: Democrat, Black, and a Trump supporter. With the latter two labels possibly playing a substantial role in his given attention due to: 1) There not being a high volume of Black Trump supporters and 2) Confusion as to why a Black politician would back a President who repeatedly indulges White Supremacists.

Jones is an example of why Democrats and Republicans need to accept the fact that ideologies differ amongst their members because if they do not, they risk a lifetime of alienating people based on assumption.

So, do not take this piece as me saying, “You can’t be mad at Jones for his political views and the policies he supports.” After all, if you voted him into office and he changed his agenda after elected you have every right to be angry with him. But, if you strictly dislike him because he is a registered Democrat and or a Black guy siding with Republicans, then you need to rethink how you approach politics because something tells me Jones did not just start leaning to the “right.” He was probably always there, and you simply voted for him with the assumption that his associated party affiliation or race would determine his thinking on political matters.

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David Anthony is new on the EURweb team. Contact David: [email protected]

David Anthony is a new graduate of Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government.  A self-designated history buff and random fact finder, David could rattle your ear for hours with information. Born and raised in the City of Angels he is a huge fan of the city’s culture and hometown NBA team, the L.A. Clippers. A future attorney, businessman, and civil servant, he hopes to be an impactful individual in life.  Contact David: [email protected]

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