More than 6,700 preschoolers suspended in 2013-14
- While the number of preschoolers who were suspended in 2013-14, the latest year for which data is available, is down, child development experts still say 6,743 students is too many — especially considering black preschoolers are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.
- NPR reports poverty wages for preschool teachers contributes to the problem, as does the poverty many kids grow up in, which impacts the way they respond to teachers and other students — often in ways the teachers themselves do not understand.
- Teacher bias also factors in, and it’s clear that black children are punished more severely for various behaviors, but preschools can combat all of these factors by banning suspensions entirely, better training teachers, and offering them more support.
Kids growing up in poverty, in homes and neighborhoods where violence and hunger are standard, come to school with a level of trauma that teachers must face head on. But it takes training to incorporate trauma-informed teaching in classrooms. Adults need to learn what behaviors to recognize as symptoms of deeper problems and they need to be trained on how to redirect their students and teach better coping skills. Professional development is always a challenge, but schools that have committed to changing their entire school environments to embrace a trauma-informed approach have found measurable success on standard metrics like test scores, attendance rates, and suspensions and expulsions.
Restorative justice has also brought improvements to schools with once high rates of in- or out-of-school suspensions. The idea is that students are not simply asked to leave, but guided to better deal with the problems that are resulting in behavior issues. This approach has been embraced as a way to curb the school-to-prison pipeline.
Follow Tara García Mathewson on Twitter