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Expelling Black Preschoolers Can Be A Pipeline Straight To Prison

June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016

A large number of Black children are being expelled and suspended from daycare every year. Can this type of exclusion have repercussions for life? The statistics and experts say, “Yes!” Expelling Black children from childcare can be the entry point for a preschool-to-prison pipeline. Unfortunately, Black children are expelled and suspended more than white children on a regular basis. Our Editor-in-Chief, Janice Robinson-Celeste interviewed Georgia Thompson, Vice President of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) Affiliate Network and Training Institute, and Cemeré’ James, the Vice President of Policy for the NBCDI on excluding young Black children from preschool and the profound consequences of this common practice.


Black children are more likely to be expelled from school than white children.

black children are more likely to be expelled from school than white children.

Q. A study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights shows that Black preschoolers in the United States are suspended more often than White preschoolers, why is that?

A. Implicit biases could be a contributing factor as to why teachers resort to suspensions and expulsions more often with children of color which, in turn, contributes to their disproportionate representation in suspensions and expulsions. As cited in the National Black Child Development Institute’s co-authored white paper, [Point of Entry] with the Center for American Progress, “an African-American student who exhibits disruptive behavior—even if it is the same behavior exhibited by white peers—might be perceived as more disruptive because of teacher bias” (2015).

– Georgia Thompson, Vice President, NBCDI Affiliate Network and Training Institute


Q. Is this a form of racism?

A. Yes, this is a form of racism. When the biases of a teacher or administrator are contributing or primary factors in the decision to suspend or expel a young child, this constitutes a form of racism.

– Georgia Thompson, Vice President, NBCDI Affiliate Network and Training Institute

1463204080_30-study_cubesQ. What are the long-term effects or damage that can happen to a child that is expelled or suspended from preschool? Isn’t it supposed to teach them a positive lesson?

A. The startling data on disproportionate suspension and expulsion that begins in preschool is that it extends through high school and is the beginning of what has been termed the “preschool to prison pipeline.” In March 2014, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights reported that Black students in kindergarten through 12th grade are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students. On average, five percent of White students are suspended, compared to 16 percent of Black students. This trend of harsher punishment and exclusionary discipline extends to arrest and referrals to law enforcement. While Black students represent 16 percent of student enrollment nationally, they represent 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 31 percent of students involved in school-related arrests. In comparison, White students represent 51 percent of enrollment, 41 percent of students referred to law enforcement, and 39 percent of those arrested. The racial bias that begins with suspension in preschool follows Black children throughout their education catapulting many of our children into juvenile justice systems later in life and possibly the criminal justice system as adults.

– Cemeré’ James, Vice President, Policy



The best course of action for any parent is to be empowered as an advocate for change in their early learning center or school district.” – Cemeré’ James, Vice President, Policy NBCDI


Q. What is a preschooler’s developmental comprehension regarding suspension or expulsion? Is it, “I’m bad” and “I can’t go to school?”

A.I’m bad” or “I can’t go to school” may likely be a young child’s perception of his/her suspension or expulsion. Young children are still developing their concept of self and being excluded from the early learning environment, especially without exploring other alternatives to meet the need that a child’s behavior is communicating without explanation and with high frequency, may very well negatively impact a child’s social-emotional development.

– Georgia Thompson, Vice President, NBCDI Affiliate Network and Training Institute


Black child at preschool

Q. What can parents do if they feel their child is suspended unfairly or more than White children in the same care?

A. The best course of action for any parent is to be empowered as an advocate for change in their early learning center or school district. If a parent suspects maltreatment or excessively harsh discipline, he/she should raise the issue at the leadership level to address this as a systemic issue and ensure comprehensive change. Instead of addressing isolated incidents that may likely reoccur, parents should appeal to leadership so that their child and other children do not repeatedly face unfair treatment. Parents can and should meet with the director of the early program their child is attending. If this program is a part of the public school system, the parent can contact their principal, school board members, or city or county elected officials for further investigation. For parents whose children are in private schools without public funding, they should work directly with the center director, owners, and/or board of directors.

Black parents who are advocating for fair and appropriate disciplinary practices should be prepared to inform and educate school leaders. Parents should inquire about using a curriculum that is positive and affirming for students of all cultures. They should ask to review written disciplinary policies, be assured that all teachers understand. And adhere to those policies and that teachers are receiving professional development that will prepare them to be culturally responsive and support children’s social and emotional development. Lastly, parents should feel empowered to work with other parents and caregivers in order to seek solutions. If the issue appears to be widespread inquire about available data to pinpoint and raise awareness about disparities in disciplinary practices.

– Cemeré’ James, Vice President, Policy


Q. Is universal preschool the answer?Raster

A. A high-quality early education that is accessible to all children is the answer. High-quality means that the teachers are trained on how best to support children’s social and emotional development. They are trained in culturally responsive pedagogy, equipping them to be able to respond to children’s needs with developmentally appropriate practices. This lessens the likelihood of suspensions and expulsions.

– Georgia Thompson, Vice President, NBCDI Affiliate Network and Training Institute

A. Early care and education programs are often underfunded and many programs struggle to attract and retain talented, effective educators and provide them with effective professional development. Parents advocating for high-quality programs must also advocate for adequate funding of these programs.

– Cemeré’ James, Vice President, Policy


Q. Is there anything else parents should know about this subject?

A. When selecting an early care and education program, parents and caregivers should feel empowered to inquire about preschool disciplinary procedures. Ask curriculum and teacher training to ensure the needs of their child will be met appropriately. Parents and caregivers should also consult with other parents if there is a concern about a program’s disciplinary policies. This may lead to the identification of any disparities that may exist in the implementation of those policies.

– Georgia Thompson, Vice President, NBCDI Affiliate Network and Training Institute



About The Guests

Georgina@GeorgiaThmpsn |Georgia S. Thompson is the Vice-President of the Affiliate Network and Training Institute for the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI). In this role, Georgia oversees the organization’s National Affiliate Network and Training Institute, ensuring the Network is trained and equipped with tools and supports to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed programming at the local level to advance the mission of the national organization. Georgia holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Child Development from Florida State University and a Master of Science degree in Human Services from Nova Southeastern University. She has been in the field of Early Care and Education for over 10 years, beginning as a preschool teacher and advancing to working in professional development and quality improvement. She has overseen the implementation and ongoing quality improvement of early care and education services for infants and toddlers enrolled in Early Head Start programs, training, and professional development initiatives, and technical assistance provided through Quality Rating Improvement Systems for early care and education practitioners. Georgia is an experienced trainer and facilitator, having trained and presented at the state and national levels. She is an advocate for high-quality education for all children, recognizing that it all begins with a firm foundation in the early years.
Cemere photo@NBCDICemere |Cemeré James recently joined the National Black Child Development Institute as Vice President of Policy. Prior to joining NBCDI, Cemeré was deputy director of the Work Support Strategies project and senior policy analyst at CLASP where she focused on strategies to increase access to public work support programs. Before joining CLASP, Cemeré was Lead Operations Specialist at Illinois Department of Human Service and, from 2009-2011, Cemeré was an inaugural fellow in the Illinois Early Childhood Fellows Program where she worked as an advocate for access to quality early childhood education and supported their strategic planning initiatives. Ms. James holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago and a Master of Industrial Engineering and Management Science degree from Northwestern University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Florida A&M University.
Publisher | @JaniceRCelesteJaniceceleste


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