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Exclusionary Practices in Preschool

Parent Perspective on Exclusionary Practices in Preschool

This 2016-17 study examined the causes and impact of expulsion and suspension on young children in New York City. The goal of this study was to describe these exclusionary practices from the perspectives of the parents. We use the term “parent(s)” as an inclusive term to refer to the person who has primary responsibility for the care of the identified child. We interviewed parents and documented the various ways in which young children’s early school experiences are affected by disciplinary strategies that often escalate to suspension or expulsion (i.e., excluded from trips and special events, sent home or asked to be brought in late for behavior problems, isolated from learning by sending to office, etc.)

This study builds from the idea of parents as experts on their child. Their specific knowledge provides a detailed picture of how their family and child experience punishment. The family stories described in this study highlight how expulsion and suspension in preschool impact individual relationships with school systems, offering personal accounts of the discontinuity of instruction and detailing observations of its impacts on children’s social and academic development. These narratives reveal how punitive punishment impacts student motivation, their relationship to school, and sense of self-efficacy all while illuminating how race, class, and gender influence interactions and events leading up to and following a preschool expulsion. We also learned how discipline practices impact parents and families, a critical addition to this study given the importance of home life on children’s wellbeing. If punitive discipline punishes families as well, it could potentially worsen the adverse effects on children by increasing financial and emotional stress at home. This study, while exploratory, paints a detailed picture of the experience of punitive punishment in New York City preschools (public, private, parochial).