Here are some noteworthy news items which have surfaced this week:

Rise in Preschoolers with Cavities: Dentists nationwide say they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities or more, according to a New York Times article published yesterday and found here. Some dentists have resorted to using general anesthesia on their toddler patients with severe decay because the children can’t sit still for such extensive procedures while they are awake.

Why the rise in cavities? Dentists cite a number of things parents are doing which contributes to the problem: regularly giving their children bottled water instead of fluoridated tap water; allowing them to have juice or other sweet drinks at bedtime; not brushing their toddlers’ teeth twice a day, and not taking their children to a dentist by their first birthday so that they can be assessed for future cavity risk. Dentists also note that parents may miss the first sign of tooth decay, because the dull ache it causes their toddlers could be mistaken for teething. Some parents don’t realize there is a problem until the children’s teeth become discolored or break, or the pain becomes unbearable.

Parental awareness seems to be key here. Making sure your child drinks tap water instead of bottled, saying no to night time sweet drinks, making sure their teeth are brushed (no matter how much they object–if you can’t stand to see them cry over toothbrushing, just think of what it would be like to watch them get their teeth drilled), and getting them to the dentist seem to be relatively simple ways to avoid this problem. But for those parents who have been letting some of these things slide, this news item is an important wake-up call.

Black Students Face Harsher Discipline, Fewer Opportunities: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released data on Tuesday collected from public schools nationwide during the 2009-10 school year which suggests that Black and Hispanic students face tougher disciplinary consequences, have a greater number of inexperienced teachers and have less access to advanced courses than their white and Asian counterparts. Reports of this data are all over the web, but a good summary is in the Huffington Post article found here.

The startling data with respect to potentially disparate disciplinary treatment has drawn the most national attention. The survey indicates that Black students were over three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. More than 70 percent of students arrested in school or handed over to law enforcement were Black or Hispanic.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali both stressed that the data is not “alleging overt discrimination in some or all of these cases.”, but further stated, “We are issuing a challenge to educators and community leaders across America to work together to address these inequities.”

GCP is not diving into the debate of what conclusions can be drawn or next steps determined from this survey, especially without further analysis of the actual data. But we will reiterate our mantra that our parents need to be keen and focused advocates for our children, especially our sons, with respect to any school issues. Being an advocate means paying careful attention to school issues concerning your child, speaking up clearly, strongly and rationally on your child’s behalf, and ensuring that the school community is working together with your support to give your child the best education possible.