Suspension and Expulsion in Early Childhood
Defining Suspension and Expulsion
- In School/Program Suspension: The child is temporally removed from classroom and/or class peers. Child is sent to some other part of the school/ program (e.g., other classroom, director’s office) for part of the day or multiple days in response to problem behavior. This includes when the child is removed from the classroom to spend extended time with administrator, counselor, behavior therapist or other adult.
- Short Term Out-of-School/Program Suspension: Child is sent home for some part of the school/program day in response to problem behavior.
- Out-of-School/Program Suspension: Child is not allowed to return to school/program for one or more days in response to problem behavior.
- For children with disabilities served under IDEA (with an IEP or IFSP): Out-of school/program suspension is an instance in which a child is temporarily removed from his/her regular school/program to another setting (e.g., home, behavior center) for at least half a day in response to problem behavior. Out-of school/program suspensions include both removals in which no individualized family service plan (IFSP) or individualized education program (IEP) services are provided because the removal is 10 days or less as well as removals in which the child continues to receive services according to his/her IFSP or IEP.
Expulsion/Dismissal: Permanent dismissal of the child from the program in response to problem behavior. Does not include transition to another program, service or classroom (e.g., special education, transitional classroom, or therapeutic preschool program) deemed more appropriate for the child if done in collaboration with the family and the receiving classroom, program or service.
Preschool children are suspended up to three times more than students from kindergarten through 12th grades. In 2014, the United States Department of Education released the results of its 2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, which, for the first time included preschool data. The results showed that approximately 5,000 preschoolers were suspended at least once in 2012 and of those, nearly 2,500 were suspended a second time. African American children, who comprise only 18 percent of the preschool population, make up nearly half of all preschool suspensions. American Indian and Native Alaskan students represent less than 1% of the student population but up to 3% of suspensions and expulsions.
In recognition of the importance of addressing suspension and expulsion, the US Departments of Education and Health and Human Services issued a Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings in 2014 that provides recommendations to States and local early childhood programs to prevent and severely limit expulsions and suspensions in early learning settings. These recommendations include the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support (i.e., Pyramid Model) and the training of staff in implementing prevention and intervention strategies and ensuring equitable practices that are free of bias and discrimination.
How to Reduce Suspensions
The Pyramid Model is an effective approach for addressing challenging behaviors that may lead to suspensions. When culturally responsive practices, which are naturally incorporated in the Pyramid Model, are highlighted during training and coaching and intentionally applied in classrooms, suspensions and racial disparities in discipline may be greatly reduced.
Culturally Responsive Practices
Effective implementation of culturally responsive practices requires a transformation in the way teachers perceive and respond to the cultural norms of children of color. Educators must have access to professional development activities that include knowledge of:
- implicit bias and its impact on decision making
- culturally responsive practices and how to implement the practices in the classroom
- the role of critical reflection in challenging assumptions, and interpreting, understanding, and reframing experiences
- strategies for preventing and addressing challenging behaviors.
Reducing Implicit Bias
In order to effectively reduce implicit bias and enhance the implementation of culturally responsive practices embedded in the Pyramid Model, teachers must engage in a journey of self-discovery that:
- makes them aware of their own biases
- capitalizes on their good intentions
- provides documentation of racial disparities
- shows how bias contributes to racial disproportionality.