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Philly Preschoolers being Expelled at High Rates

October 5, 2017
Anna Nguyen
The Inquirer

While we often associate this as a problem for older children, communities nationwide including Philadelphia are experiencing high rates of 1- to 3-year-olds being suspended or expelled from preschools and day care centers. Preschools are expelling children at a rate three times higher than K-12 schools.

We spoke with Marsha Gerdes, PhD, a senior psychologist at PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who recently along with the Public Health Management Corporation participated in a webinar examining the issue.

In Philadelphia, 26 percent of child care settings reported in a survey PolicyLab conducted last year that they expelled at least one child, and 37 percent reported having suspended a child under the age of five in the 2015-2016 school year. Were these numbers surprising to you?
From my clinical practice and from hearing from CHOP primary care providers, I know that parents often report being asked to withdraw their child due to their behavior. I was less aware of the high incidence of suspension.

 The most surprising finding was that toddlers (ages 12-36 month) were just as likely as preschoolers (ages 3 to 5 years) to be expelled or suspended. Because tantrums, emotional outbursts and even biting can be part of typical development at that age, it is sad to think that 2-year-olds are being excluded due to normal behavior.