EARLY CHILDHOOD DISCIPLINE IN FOCUS

Equity in Early Childhood

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Why should we address the issue of suspension and expulsion of children under 8 years old?

  •   Children under 8 years old are at a critical stage of development and their early experiences have dramatic impacts on their health and school success. Suspension and/or expulsion from school for what are often developmentally-appropriate (but challenging) behaviors does little to address the needs of children exhibiting these behaviors.

 

  • The practice of suspending and expelling children—particularly those younger than age 8—from early elementary and early childhood settings can have profound consequences. These punitive measures come at a time when children are supposed to be forming the foundation of positive relationships with peers, teachers, and the school institution. Instead, they are experiencing school as a place where they are not welcome or supported, which serves as a troubling indicator of what is to come.[1]

 

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  • Research shows that when young students are suspended or expelled from school, they are several times more likely to experience disciplinary action later in their academic career; drop out or fail out of high school; report feeling disconnected from school; and be incarcerated later in life.[2] These early childhood and early elementary exclusionary practices have been referred to as the “point of entry” to the school to prison pipeline.[3]

 

  • Emerging research also has demonstrated that student suspension rates are having an outsized impact on reading and math achievement. In the K-12 system at large, school suspensions account for approximately one-fifth of black-white differences in school performance.[4] It is likely that the impact of these disciplinary practices early in an academic career can be even more dramatic. 
  • The use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions does not improve student behavior or overall school climate, according to the American Psychological Association. In fact, these exclusions have been shown to negatively impact individual student behavior and classroom climate. Other, research-based alternatives to exclusionary discipline, like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and Restorative Discipline, have been shown to improve student behavior and dramatically reduce the use of classroom removals.

 

  • Statute in Colorado makes an inadequate distinction between children under 8 (pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade) and those over 8 years old when providing direction about the use of suspensions and expulsions. Currently, the same categories establishing grounds for suspension and expulsion that exist for an 18-year-old also exist for a 6-year-old.