“Preschool” and “suspension” are two words you don’t normally hear together. But recently, the phrase is becoming more common in schools and communities around the US. Some studies have even shown expulsion rates for preschoolers are three times greater than expulsion rates for K-12 students.
Preschool Suspensions: The Facts
“Every year, thousands of children are suspended from preschool,” an article from NPR Ed reads. Data from the US Department of Education showed that 6,743 preschool children received at least one out-of-school suspension over the course of the 2013-14 school year (and, the author notes, that number only counted public preschools).
Another study revealed 50,000 preschoolers were suspended at least once in 2016, with at least 17,000 were expelled. Still, other studies have shown that, for African-American and Latino students, expulsion rates are higher than they are for children of other races.
Preschoolers with disabilities are more likely to be suspended. Although just 13 percent of US preschoolers have a disability, they make up three-fourths of all suspensions and expulsions. For children with autism, suspension was 10 times more likely than for other children.
Is Preschool Suspension and Expulsion Smart?
Are suspensions and expulsions really a good idea? Or could poor behaviors be corrected in ways that don’t result in four-year-olds having to unexpectedly switch to a new school?
The state of Connecticut is working to find a better answer. State officials voted to limit out-of-school suspensions for children in preschool through second grade. And teachers make an effort to never reinforce bad behavior. Instead, they intentionally defuse situations where a child is about to misbehave.
How to Prevent Preschool Suspensions
When it comes to this issue, preventing the suspension in the first place is key. Preschoolers don’t have a big language capacity, so often there are underlying emotions causing the behavior that we know nothing about.
Recognizing something else is often going on is important. One of the best ways to prevent preschool suspensions is to equip teachers with the focus and patience they need to deal with difficult kids.
“Some preschool teachers may do things that can aggravate students’ misbehavior, such as talking about a student’s conduct in front of the child or speaking loudly and shaming students in front of their peers,” per the NBC News article “50,000 Preschoolers are Suspended Each Year. Can Mental Health Training for Teachers Help?”
And when we help preschoolers learn to be kind and gentle, we’re not just preventing their suspension from pre-kindergarten — we’re setting them up for a lifetime of a good school record and, even better, a lifetime of showing respect to their peers.