Preschoolers Expelled More than Older Kids
Imagine hearing that your child has been expelled – from preschool! A new study reports that pre-kindergartners are expelled at three times the rate of elementary, middle and high school students.

Expulsion is the harshest disciplinary action a school can take against a student. It means the student is no longer allowed to attend the school. While the study, conducted by the Yale University Child Study Center, did not describe the reasons for pre-K expulsions, researchers say they are primarily due to serious behavioral problems.

“No one wants to hear about 3- and 4-year-olds being expelled from preschool, but it happens rather frequently,” according to lead researcher William S. Gilliam.

Researchers sought data on expulsions from the nation’s 52 state-funded pre-K programs in 40 states, and then used a random sample of 4,815 classrooms to complete the study. Among the findings:

• Nearly seven out of every 1,000 pre-kindergarteners are expelled each year – an estimated 5,117 preschoolers in all.
The rate is 3.2 times higher than the national expulsion rate (2.1 expulsions per 1,000 enrolled students) for kids in grades K-12.

• Expulsion rates are higher for pre-kindergartners than for students in grades K-12 in all but three states
: Kentucky, South Carolina and Louisiana.

• Four-year-olds are expelled 1.5 times more than 3-year-olds; boys are expelled 4.5 times more than girls;
and African-Americans are twice as likely to be expelled as Latino and Caucasian kids and more than five times as likely than Asian-American kids.


When Professional Help Is Nearby

Expulsion rates are lowest in pre-K classrooms in public schools and in Head Start programs, and highest in faith-based and other private preschool programs, the researchers note. They attribute the lower rates to the presence of a school psychologist or psychiatrist who can handle serious behavior problems. Expulsions occurred twice as much in classrooms where there was no access to these professionals.

“Pre-K teachers need access to the support staff they need to help manage classroom behavior problems. Without this support,” Gilliam notes, “we are setting up for failure both our children and their teachers.”

The researchers also recommended training both parents and preschool teachers to better manage child behavior.

For more on the study, visit the Web site for the Foundation for Child Development, which helped fund a policy brief about the study, at

– Deirdre Wilson

More about Preschool:
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  • Find out what's going on in preschools today
  • Questions to ask
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