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250 Preschoolers Are Suspended Everyday—Most of Them Are Black and/or Have Special Needs

In this personal essay, Tara Kirton—who introduces herself as “a Black woman, mother of two, a former preschool and special education teacher, and a doctoral student in early childhood education”—discusses the concerning relationships between Black children, special education services, and suspensions and expulsions.

In the U.S. alone, 250 preschoolers are suspended each day, leaving their parents without care for their children. Kirton points out that Black children and children receiving special education services are suspended and expelled at higher rates than other children throughout their schooling years, starting in preschool, and cites alarming research that, “Black preschoolers, just 18% of enrollment, account for nearly half of all preschool suspensions.”

She also shares her own experiences as a mother whose Black child was referred for special education services for “behavioral issues” in preschool, and situates her story in the broader context of how “Black children have long been disproportionately represented among special education students and under-referred for gifted programs.”

Take a look:

Preschool suspensions are harmful — and surprisingly common

Preschool often represents a child’s first educational experience and can set the tone for how children and families interact with educators for years to come. For many young children, it is also the first time they are away from a family member or loved one for an extended period. This experience comes with new expectations to complete with some independence tasks such as toileting, cleaning up after themselves, and self-regulating when they become upset. That’s a lot to ask when you consider how at the age of 3 or 4, a preschooler has only been out in the world for roughly 36 to 59 months.

Things become even more complicated when you consider cultural differences between the family and staff, language delays and other developmental variations, the needs of a child who is an emergent bilingual, and the different expectations at home and school.

Zero-tolerance policies are not interventions; they simply remove children from the learning environment, which doesn’t set them up for success upon their return.

Image Tara Kirton via Chalkbeat


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