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Kicking kids out of preschool is damaging, experts say. So why is it still happening?

August 5, 2019
Erin Einhorn

In Houston, Emma Tsai’s rambunctious 3-year-old son was kicked out of four preschools near his home – including one that expelled him after just a few hours for jumping around and ignoring safety precautions.

In New York City, Debra Sinclair said she felt lost and alone when a few incidents of kicking and biting got her son forced out of a preschool in Queens.

And in Chicago, Mina Marien said her 3-year-old son was distressed when one preschool, then another, pushed him out for biting, shoving and, in one case, hitting another child with a rolling pin.

“He was telling me he was bad,” Marien said. “He couldn’t control his impulses and felt bad about himself afterwards.”

There’s nothing new about tiny troublemakers being pushed out of preschools. A 2016 federal study found that an estimated 50,000 preschoolers had been suspended in the previous year and 17,000 were expelled.

But Tsai, Sinclair and Marien all live in cities or states that have taken steps to reduce suspensions and expulsions, in response to research showing that young children who are booted from preschool face a slew of social, emotional and academic consequences. That their sons were kicked out anyway shows that while some strides have been made to change the way schools respond to challenging children, the patchwork of state and local policies is spotty.