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How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

  • 1.  How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-16-2017 04:43 PM
    I've read the research on preschool expulsions and how detrimental they are to children's success. I'm concerned about the number of children who have been expelled from my program, especially children of color. How can I help the administrators of my center to understand why preschool expulsion is harmful and how to best work with all children?

    Deborah Valentine
    Culver City, CA

  • 2.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-16-2017 05:47 PM
    Hi, Deborah,
    it's so sad when a preschool expulsion happens, and it should be a rare-to-almost-never event. You can certainly share the research on how detrimental it is with your colleagues.
    But they might respond well, also, to a proactive approach of sharing how to prevent those situations, or remedy them more positively. Almost without exception, expulsions happen because the environment or routines set up circumstances that cause behaviors that some adults see as unmanageable, even dangerous.
    While it's our job to protect all of the children in the program (e.g., from biting), it's also our job to design environments and schedules that make it possible/easy to succeed.
    For example, we know that young children need 2 - 4 hours daily of vigorous large motor play. But even in programs that offer that on the schedule, children too often spend time waiting in line (e.g., to traverse an obstacle course, or ride a wheeled toy vehicle) rather than actually moving. That's a recipe for aggression.
    And, too often our children don't get the time and space they need to recover from strong negative feelings - instead, they are expected to be in a group constantly. No adult could tolerate that for long, much less children.
    If you observe your program carefully, you'll probably see lots of opportunities to flex environment and routines to make successful participation possible for young kids. Ask your colleagues to to experiment with these changes. When they see the results, they will likely be eager to expand them.
    Good luck!! And thanks for advocating for the children in your program!!

    Hazel Osborn, M.A.
    Loveland CO

  • 3.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-17-2017 04:11 AM
    Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for posting this message, and advocating for your students, specifically students of color within your center. I absolutely agree with many statements that Hazel provided.  Importance of not only realizing, but how can one be an effective/proactive in regards to addressing such concerns to your administrators? I wonder....does your center allow you to bring in current research & best practices (which can be brought from various locales...such as NAEYC!) during staff meeting or professional development days? In past, I have administrators appreciate effective data sets, and which ways the data improved the current practice (including behavior & socio-emotional). Would your administrators appreciate such information as well? In my opinion, it is also important to look at some best practices/behavior management models for centers within your local communities (centers) as well.  Perhaps, even finding a way to collaborate with other centers in the area to learn about how they work with students with various challenges. Would any of these strategies help you in your current situation?

    Ankit Shah
    Educational Academy for Boys and Girls
    Columbus OH

  • 4.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-17-2017 06:35 AM
    I struggle with that at my center, too. We do it way too much. I can see both sides of the issue, though. On the one hand it is so detrimental to children's self-esteem to be expelled. On the other hand, as a teacher with 1 other teacher in the room and 15-18 two-and-a-half to three-year olds, having one child with extreme behavior struggles is very challenging. One teacher is working with the struggling child and the other teacher is left with the other 14-17. We do not have money in the budget to provide the one-on-one care this child needs, so what can we do? I try as hard as I can to meet all the needs of all of the children, but there is only so much I can do. I really worked with the family and the child, but finally I had to admit defeat. I felt terrible, but I had no energy left for the rest of the class or myself or my family by the end of the day. We need more physical resources, such as extra teachers, to be able to provide quality care to all, but we have no money for it. It's a lose-lose situation as is stands right now, but how do we fix it? I struggle with this dilemma often.

    Catherine Roach
    Milwaukee WI

  • 5.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-17-2017 11:07 AM
    Hi Deborah,
    This is such a hard thing to think about isn't it?  Often both teachers and administrators reach the end of their ropes and can't see that there are any other options.  A few things I've found to help are:
    • Remembering that of course your director doesn't want to see these kids expelled either.  If nothing else, expelling a child means that the program has to find another child to fill that slot.  
    • Holding out to everyone concerned that making the program workable for the child who is in danger of being expelled will make the program better for every child.  When we make our expectations clearer and more transparent, eliminate unnecessary transitions, build stronger relationships with parents, make sure our expectations are age appropriate and seek support around effective discipline and guidance practices, our programs are better places for all children.  
    • Getting outside help with discipline and guidance appears to be especially helpful in reducing the rate of pre-school expulsions.  Is it possible that there are free or low cost resources that your director doesn't know about?  Is it worth a call to your nearest resource and referral agency or college early childhood program to find out what is out there?  
    • Helping teachers unpack what is going on with specific children they are struggling with.  What makes the situation look like there are no options but expulsion?  For instance, we know from research that people tend to see black children, especially black boys as older than they really are.  Simply remembering that the child is only 3 or 4 can sometimes shift the situation.  Or figuring out that another staff member has more patience for a particular behavior and letting that staff member handle it.  (I worked with a program once where the director told me that a particular child's bad language was sending a teaching team over the edge.  It turned out that the child was saying things like "jesus, diaper".  One teacher was offended by this, other teachers weren't so bothered, or even thought it was funny.  Part of the solution was making sure the teacher who was deeply offended wasn't the one to handle the behavior)  
    • Good luck!  

    [Meg] [Thomas]
    [Early childhood program manager]
    [St Paul ] [MN]

  • 6.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-18-2017 08:20 AM
    Hello,  There are so many good resources out there on this topic. I am sure many of you know of the link from this organization (NAEYC)
    Standing Together Against Suspension & Expulsion in Early Childhood | National Association for the Education of Young Children | NAEYC

    Also this landing pad has some good information

    2016 Preventing Expulsion and Promoting Social Emotional Health Peer Learning Forum

     Hope this helps. Best, Linda

    Linda Labas
    University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion & Disability Studies

  • 7.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-18-2017 09:39 AM
    Hello Deborah,

    I just saw Dr. Walter S. Gilliam (he is pretty much the national research leader on this topic) speak last week in St. Louis on this topic. A key takeaway for me was the fact that the four primary factors when a child gets expelled are Child-Teacher Ratio, Program Length of Day, Teacher Job Stress, and Access to Behavioral Supports - note that none of the top four factors in expelling children actually have anything to do with the behaviors of the child. To quote Dr. Gilliam - "Preschool Expulsion Is NOT a Child Behavior. It is an Adult Decision." (here is a link to his powerpoint from the session where you can get some good pieces of info -

    Here is a link to the Zigler Center at Yale, where Dr. Gilliam works, that has a lot of the major research and news articles on the topic in chronological order - Preschool Expulsion Timeline > Edward Zigler Center in Child Development & Social Policy | Child Study Center | Yale School of Medicine 

    This is a major issue in our time! Thank you for looking for resources and being willing to take a stand on this!

    Benjamin Planton [Designation]
    Bloomington IN

  • 8.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-18-2017 11:38 AM
    Deborah - thank you so much for raising this important issue as a topic for discussion.  Here is a link to related resources from ZERO TO THREE that may be helpful - Preventing Expulsion From Preschool and Child Care
    ZERO TO THREE remove preview
    Preventing Expulsion From Preschool and Child Care
    This practice deprives young children of the benefit of early childhood education and may leave unaddressed the mental health issues that lead to challenging behaviors. High expulsion rates are also an indicator that we are not helping parents and caregivers, starting from birth, to support the positive social and emotional development that is the foundation for all learning, future relationships, and school readiness.
    View this on ZERO TO THREE >

    Lynette Aytch
    Washington DC

  • 9.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-19-2017 09:18 AM
    Good morning.

    As a director of 19 years, I have only had to expel one child temporarily until the child would receive a TSS so that the preschool teacher could teach the entire classroom.  All circumstances are different.  Sometimes, however a director needs to protect the safety of all children in the classroom, not just the child who is making inappropriate choices.  If a child is causing physical pain on other children in the classroom involving bruising, etc. then sometimes that child may have to be expelled.  It just isn't fair to the other children to allow them to be in an unsafe situation.  Some situations are out of a teacher's control no matter how good of a teacher he or she may be.

    If a child is making inappropriate choices, but not hurting other children, then you have a good chance at persuading the director to keep the child in your classroom.  Here are some tips that may be useful coming from a director:

    1.  Explain to the director that you are not giving up on the child and ask that the director not to give up on you
    2.  Tell the director that you will have complete open communication with him or her throughout the process
    3.  Research online about information that will help you help the child and allow your coworkers to help you as well
    4.  Learn what the child does that triggers your stress so that you may prevent your emotions from building in the future
    5.  Have a key word or phrase to use with coworkers when you need to switch with one of them when your stress is triggered
    6.  Use confidentiality, but get all families on board with the process, not just the family of the child making inappropriate choices
    7.  Tap into the child's inner strengths - Is the child a leader and likes to be in charge? - Assign responsibilities
    8.  Document everything concerning the child, both good choices and inappropriate choices
    9.  Remember that this is a child.  Adults make mistakes.  Children will make many more mistakes, so they need many more chances.
    10.  Respect the child no matter what behavior the child chooses to display.  

    I hope this helps and I wish you the best.


    Robin Spicher
    Halifax PA

  • 10.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-20-2017 10:18 AM
    Thank you, Robin, for the tips. Number 6, getting the other families involved, sounds like a good idea. What are some ways I could do that while respecting confidentiality? I think this could be very helpful because part of the stress of having a child with challenging behavior is letting the other families know about it, that we are working on it, and not giving out too much information. I don't want the family to feel 'spotlighted', but I think families working together to help a child would be great. That would truly make us family-oriented. Also, I think it would help other struggling families not be wary of asking for help-they would know they are not alone.

    Catherine Roach
    Milwaukee WI

  • 11.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-21-2017 02:41 PM
    I agree that a child should be expelled only when he/she poses harm to other students. The key, in my opinion, is that of teaching social skills to children in our care. At home, the rules applying to behavior may be different from those at school. We need to let parents know this,ask for their support,  and teach acceptable behavior to the children.

    [Pauline] [West]
    [Lead Teacher, NCPreK]
    [KinderCare Learning Center]
    [Fayetteville ] [NC]

  • 12.  RE: How do I help my center administrators understand why preschool expulsion is harmful?

    Posted 05-19-2017 08:51 AM

    Some resources have been developed in New York State that might be useful. Our state has been working to spread the use of the Pyramid Model. Pyramid Model supports caregivers to meet the social-emotional needs of children, which can reduce the use of suspension and expulsion.



    Two webcasts on the topic can be accessed here: .A compelling testimonial from a parent is included in the " "Model in Action" webcast. Her segment begins at 1:29 of that webcast.





    An e-learning on suspension and expulsion is in development and will be on the following website in the next few weeks:


    Karen Kissinger
    NYS Office of Children & Family Services
    Rensselaer NY