For most people, the first image that comes to mind when they hear the word preschooler is a cute, snotty-nosed kid who offers a wealth of comic relief through the funny things she says and does. Why on earth would this cute child ever be kicked out of a school or childcare setting?
The alarming truth is preschoolers are three times more likely to be expelled from a childcare or school setting than any of their kindergarten through 12th grade counterparts.
Not my child! While I certainly hope that to be the case, before you assume it could never happen to your playful preschooler, I encourage you to arm yourself with the knowledge of this reality. As child psychologist, Dr. Walter Gilliam summarizes, ten percent of all teachers in state-funded prekindergarten programs report having expelled at least one child. This rate jumps to 39 percent for child care programs outside of the state run systems. Click here for more information concerning the research related to preschool expulsion.
Before we talk about what to do if your child is expelled, lets spend some time discussing how to prevent this atrocity from happening in the first place. Here are some practical things you, as your child’s parent and most important advocate can do to prevent your child from being expelled.
- Research Your Child’s Preschool Program. Know their polices and procedures on expelling children before enrolling your child. If these policies aren’t clearly spelled out in writing, ask the director to explain them to you. If a program is quick to expel, it is a good sign they are ill-equipped to deal with the many challenges children face as they learn how to navigate the social settings of the classroom. I encourage you to seek out a program which views social emotional skills as something to be taught to children in a developmentally appropriate way.
- Know State and Federal Guidelines Which Govern Your Child’s Program. Did you know, for instance that the new Head Start Performance Standards strictly prohibit expulsion of students? If your child is enrolled in a Head Start Program and expulsion is discussed as an option for your child it is important for you to know he or she cannot be expelled from the program unless all other measures have been taken to help your child acquire the skills he or she needs. Even then, the program must help you find a suitable placement for your child. State Pre-K programs are under their state regulations some of which limit or prohibit expulsion of children. Licensed state childcare programs must also follow regulations as to how they discipline and address problematic behaviors. Not all states are equal in this department, but be sure you know what the rules are in your state.
- Stay Informed. Programs vary on the amount of information they share with parents concerning behavior issues. Many programs have an unwritten rule to never discuss behavior issues with a parent (until it’s too late), and many inform the parent of every little infraction their child commits. Regardless of the programs philosophy on this issue, YOU as the parent have the right to decide how you wish to be communicated with when it comes to your child’s behavior. Many “behavior concerns” are normal developmental issues that a child can successfully navigate through when teachers and parents are working together with the same goal for the child.
If, even after taking all of the above into consideration, you face the expulsion of your child, find comfort in knowing your child wasn’t in an appropriate setting (not because of your child, but because of the inappropriate practices of the preschool) and move on.
The number one predictor of a child being expelled is previous expulsion. It is obvious expelling a child does nothing to help the child to learn the skills he needs. You, as the parent must always be ready to advocate for your child and do what it takes to ensure he or she is in the best setting possible.
If you feel your child was expelled unjustly, do not hesitate to contact the state licensing agency, state department of education or Regional Head Start office to inform them of the incident. It may be too late for your child in this instance, but by reporting this information, you can advocate for other children who may fall victim to this practice.
Finally, reassure your child and seek assistance from your pediatrician if you feel your child is having legitimate behavior challenges. He or she should be able to point you to the appropriate resources in your community to give both you and your child the support you need.