WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Black students are almost four times more likely to be suspended from public school than white students, part of persistent disparities in U.S. schools, according to U.S. Education Department data released on Tuesday.
The department's Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2013-14 school year showed that the higher rate of suspensions come as black students are more likely than whites to be absent and to have inexperienced teachers, and are less likely to have access to science and math courses.
Education Secretary John King said the disparities shown in the survey of 96,000 schools and 50 million students underscored the continuing need to improve equity in U.S schooling.
The data "illustrate in powerful and troubling ways disparities in opportunities and experiences that different groups of students have in our schools,” he said in a statement.
The number of students from kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) who were suspended one or more times fell to 2.8 million, down almost 20 percent from the previous survey in the 2011-12 school year.
About 1.1 million black K-12 students were suspended, a rate 3.8 times that of white students. Black preschoolers were 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than whites, the data showed.
Black K-12 students also were 1.9 times more likely to be expelled from school than white students.
K-12 students with disabilities were more than as twice likely to be suspended as students without disabilities. Students with disabilities were two-thirds of students kept apart from classmates or restrained, even though they made up 12 percent of students overall, the study showed.
Among academic subjects, a third of high schools with high black or Latino enrollment offered calculus, compared with 56 percent for those with low numbers of black and Latinos.
Just under half of high schools with high numbers of black and Latino students offered physics, compared with 67 percent for those with low Latino and black enrollment.
The survey defined high black and Latino enrollment as schools with more than 75 percent Latino and black students.
Eleven percent of African-American students are in schools where more than one-fifth of teachers are in their first year of teaching, versus 5 percent of white students.
Eighteen percent of high-school students overall are chronically absent, or out of school 15 days during the year, while 22 percent of black students are chronically absent.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)