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New National Estimates and Risk Factors of Preschool Suspension and Expulsion: A Population Study

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Objective: Preschool education is critical for building children’s foundation of learning, health and well-being needed for success in school and life. Suspension and expulsion, however, deprive positive learning experiences that nurture learning and development. The purpose of this study is to provide first national estimate of preschool suspension/expulsion for both public and private programs, and identify disability and adverse childhood experiences as new risk factors. Examining child disability and ACEs as risk factors for preschool suspension and expulsion can provide new insights related to the underlying factors beyond teacher implicit bias. Moreover, findings from this holistic investigation may further inform the roles of pediatricians and other professionals to promote evidence-based inclusion practices and family-centered intervention.

Method: Data source was the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. Parents reported suspension and expulsion for their children (n = 6,100), disability status, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and other demographic characteristics. I estimated the prevalence of preschool suspension and expulsion, and evaluated the effects of disability and ACEs as risk factors using weighted sequential logistic regression.

An estimated 174,309 preschoolers (2.0%) were suspended, and at least 17,248 (0.2%) children were expelled in 2016. Controlling for previous risk factors (e.g., age, gender, race, ethnicity), children with disability had much higher rate (OR = 3.7, P < .001) of experiencing suspension or expulsion. Children were more likely to be suspended or expelled if they had ACEs, including adult fight (OR = 10.6, P < .001), living with mental illness (OR = 9.8, P < .001), adult substance abuse (OR = 4.8, P < .001), and victim of violence (OR = 4.5, P = .004), living in poverty (OR = 3.9, P = .001), divorced parents (OR = 3.3, P = .001), and parent incarceration (OR = 3.0, P = .009).

The alarming suspension and expulsion rates call for strong collaboration with special educators and exploring alternative in-school settings for both public and private preschools. Behavior management strategies and social-emotional learning curriculum should be available to support high-risk children and their families. Strong collaboration with special educators and exploring alternative settings are promising practices that needed to be implemented in both public and private preschool settings.


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