Should “Challenging” Preschoolers be Expelled?

I came across this blog ( with an intriguing post about the rise in preschool expulsions due to challenging/dangerous behavior.  According to the blog, preschoolers are being expelled at “three times the rate of students K-12”.  The writer of the blog maintains that “pushed-down” curriculum is the primary cause of young children being expelled, because “Feeling the pressure to perform, many schools don’t feel they have time to teach about social skills, or to take time to model problem-solving.”  

I am a vocal opponent of pushed-down curricula and I can see where academic pressure might contribute challenging behavior, but I think there is more to the picture.  As I read some of the blog comments, I noticed that many agreed with the blogger, and several criticized the teaching staff as being unqualified and/or not willing to work with challenging children.  I had to think about this for a bit.  One commenter did step out and say that lack of staff (especially trained SPED staff) was a contributing factor, and that made sense to me.

In an effort to find varying perspectives, I brought this topic to two of my co-workers.  We had a lively discussion.  One co-worker maintained that our main objective should be the safety of all the children and if one child was a threat to the others—beyond the “expected” developmental transgressions (like a toddler biting in frustration) then letting that child go should be considered.  The other co-worker said that we should consider the fact that “this is the other children’s preschool experience too” and we should not allow one child to continually disrupt the day.  

Hearing these perspectives opened my eyes.  My teaching philosophy has always been to take children where (and who) they are and help them get where they need to be.  However, I can understand the perspectives of my co-workers. 

What do you think?  Should preschoolers ever be “expelled” for “dangerous” behavior?  What should teachers do to accommodate children with challenging behavior if staff levels are low?  What do you see as contributing factors to the rise in preschool expulsions?  I think this is an interesting issue and I am eager to hear what you have to say. 



5 thoughts on “Should “Challenging” Preschoolers be Expelled?

  1. Preschoolers are being expelled. Some of these students are real challenges, i have had the experiences of a student not only was he a danger to others, but to himself. I do not believe that the should be expelled but an intervention plan must be in place. Young children are still learning social rules and as a caregiver as well as a teacher, i should help instill and model acceptable behavior. What do you believe the future of many school “no tolerance” policy that is expelling school and giving them and their parents tickets to go to court?

  2. Hi Mosadi,
    This is a complex issue and doesn’t have an easy answer as far as I can determine. In your experience, did the child you mentioned have a sped issue? Were you able to utilize services for him? I think that’s the key–having the resources in place to help these kids (and families). Also–I’m not sure what you mean by “giving them and their parents tickets to go to court”—could you clarify? Thanks!
    And thanks for responding!

  3. I posted the same topic. So far I have received one comment. It was suggested that the responsibility was on the trainer to ensure that staff understood child development and how to deal with challenging behaviors. As the trainer, I hear often, ” they need to be trained”. One of the challenges I find is that we have continued to hire staff without child development knowledge or early care experience, and many are not committed to gain such knowledge. Because it is a job they could easily qualify for.
    The research of early childhood development is continuing to expand and deepen our knowledge in the field, and yet we have continued to place young children into the care of individuals who are not equipped with the understanding that biting is a normal and challenging behavior for toddlers. I realize that this post is addressing dangerous behaviors, but I do not believe that children should be expelled from preschool. Part of our responsibility is to determine what is going on with a child and provide a network of support for the child and their family. In doing this it is sometimes discovered that the child may need to be in another environment that is better suited for him or her. But often expulsion does not address the needs of the child.
    This is why it is important to continue to seek a professional early care and education environment with qualified staff, such as educated Teachers and Assistants (minimum credential for assistants should be a CDA), Directors and Administrators who have degrees in Early Childhood Development or closely related, Trainers with degrees in the field, a Nurse and Mental Health Consultants. I have seen children who have exhibited some very dangerous behaviors and would have benefit from such a staff. But because there wasn’t education, experience or knowledge available, the child, other children, the staff and the families suffered. No one received help and ultimately the child is seen as a problem and we need to get rid of him has often been the attitude. We may not have the ability to have the specialized staff but collaboration can make it happen.
    The Community Model requires collaboration and interaction with other professionals and agencies. If everyone has to be educated why not the one who spends typically more waking hours, in a week with the children, than their parents?

  4. Hi Kimberly,
    I think you’ve made a valid point about the lack of qualified staff as being part of the issue of supporting children with challenging behavior. I work for a private preschool and we seem to be just a little out of the loop for SPED services (apart from speech). Children with challenges like ADHD etc who need services are either asked to enroll in a public school that has a preschool (our town’s public school does not have a preschool) or the parents of the child have to pay for private services. There are three teachers and one director in our school and, although my co-workers have years of experience in the EC field, and my co-teachers are excellent teachers, none of them hold a degree in education (including the director). I have always been of the opinion that experience and talent were more important than degrees, but in this case, I think specific knowledge is essential. I can honestly say that my academic training has been an asset to me when I have had a child in my class that needed careful observation and understanding.
    Thanks for your response! I appreciate your perspective.

  5. Hi Julia,
    I have only been teaching three years and I have been the lead inclusion teacher two of those years. I dont know how that happened but I think it is important for individuals to be trained and also have the support to better serve challenging students. My first challenging student was one I will never forget and most teachers refused to have her in their class but luckily I love a challenge and I believed she could get on the right track it was very hard but at the end of the year she received student of the year for the entire school. I say this because no matter how many labels she was given I was never trained on how to help her I had little to no experience but I was determined to help this child, I did not want her suspended when she committed level 4 or 5 infractions because she wanted to go home I could not help her if she was home. I believe students like this should be handle in school not by sending them home all the time. Sending a child home most of the time is only a break for them to think of more things to do to interrupt the school day. I enjoyed reading your perspective.


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