‘Depressing’ Racial Split Shown to Start at Birth

Deirdre Conner, Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), January 13, 2009

Inequalities that begin at birth stack the deck against some of Jacksonville’s children and worsen the problem of violent crime in the community, according to a new report.

The comprehensive study, authored by the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and coupled with two other projects, has reignited the debate over the story of race in the city. And it presents dozens of statistics that paint a sobering picture of ongoing racial and ethnic disparities among children from birth to young adulthood. Among them:

–One in three black children live in poverty, compared with fewer than one in 10 white children.

–More than 13 percent of black infants are born with a low birth weight, compared with 7 percent of white babies.

–Black students are suspended from school at a rate more than twice that of white students.

The statistics presented in the report were so stark that they stunned into silence a group of pediatricians at a meeting, said Anne Egan, the commission’s chairwoman and a pediatrician herself.

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The findings illustrate why the city must get involved in the lives of at-risk children, Mayor John Peyton said at the report’s release Monday.

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Peyton also touted the Jacksonville Journey, a $31 million anti-crime initiative that includes social programs, as an important commitment to children–although the Journey came under fire last year from critics who said it gave too much money to law enforcement at the expense of education.

The Journey is providing extra money to the Children’s Commission for after-school programs and other initiatives to prevent children and teens from getting in trouble.

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