In response to the high rate of preschool suspension and expulsion, which is disproportionately experienced by children of color, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released a joint policy statement in 2014. The statement speaks to the gravity of the issue and calls upon early learning programs, districts and states to establish policies that promote positive behavioral interventions. The joint commitment by ED and HHS has been reinforced by the early learning advocacy community. Led by NAEYC, over 30 national organizations, including FFYF, signed on in support of Standing Together Against Suspension & Expulsion in Early Childhood.

In continuation of this work, ED and HHS have invested $1 million in new funding to support the Pyramid Equity Project being carried out by the Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which embodies the recommendations put forth by the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. Instead of removing young children from their learning environment, either through suspension or expulsion, the Pyramid Equity Project aims to disseminate tools, materials, and procedures that support prevention of suspension, expulsion, and discipline disparities in early learning programs by elevating the use of evidence-based practices and approaches to promote positive social, emotional and behavioral development. Suspension and expulsion are closely linked with negative student outcomes, such as lower academic performance, increased dropout rates, future disciplinary actions and interaction with the juvenile justice system. Following the approach set by the Pyramid Equity Project proactively addresses challenging behavior in a developmentally appropriate manner, and maintains continuity in a young child’s access to early learning and care. These interventions contribute to a young child entering Kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in school and life.

Two Preschool Development Grantees, the Clifton Early Learner Academy in Clifton, NJ, and Cambridge Early Learning Center in Antioch, TN, are partnering with the Pyramid Equity Project as demonstration sites. These sites will serve as national models for implementing the best practices articulated by the Pyramid Equity Project, which follows the evidence-based Pyramid Model for Promoting the Social Emotional Competence of Infants and Young Children. Other Preschool Development Grant states have also directed technical assistance efforts to implement policies and practices to mitigate suspension and expulsion in early learning settings.

For more highlights of states and local communities that have stepped up to prevent preschool expulsion and suspension, check out this report from the Administration for Families and Children.