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The Consequences of Disciplining Prescholoers with Disabilities

The Consequences of Disciplining Preschoolers with Disabilities

Last week we wrote about a recent report that found that the odds of being suspended or expelled from preschool were 14.5 times higher for children aged 3 to 5 with disabilities and emotional challenges than for their typically developing peers. Why does it matter?

Children’s early years lay the foundation for later success. Suspensions and expulsions—two stressful, stigmatizing experiences—deprive children of opportunities to develop friendships, learn new skills, and gain independence and self-efficacy. This is harmful for all children, but can be especially damaging to children with disabilities. Suspensions and expulsions communicate that adults have low expectations for children, which children internalize and translate into disengagement from school. Over the long term, this disengagement can lead to truancy, dropping out of school, and incarceration.

Beyond their immediate and long-term impact on individual children, suspensions and expulsions may violate federal civil rights laws if administered in a discriminatory manner. Administrative law requires that programs ensure children with disabilities are not suspended or expelled for behaviors related to their disability. If a child’s behavior disrupts others’ learning, early childhood programs must consider implementing reasonable policy and practice modifications that reduce the need for discipline. As most children in this study were currently diagnosed with a condition that made them eligible for IDEA services, findings suggest that disciplinary practices in early childhood settings must do better to protect the civil rights of children with disabilities.

Finally, removing children with disabilities and children of color—many of whom come from low-income families—removes children who are likely to make the greatest gains from high- quality preschool. Expelling children who are most in need of high-quality, supportive early learning undermines preschools’ mission of preparing children for kindergarten. These children are also likely to provide the biggest return on investment in services; by expelling children who most need services, programs undercut the economic model of early education.

To read the full report by the Center for American Progress go to: Suspensions are not Support-Center for American Progress.

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