Zero Tolerance

Kids or Criminals? Preschool Suspended a 3-Year-Old… Five Times

If there's any good news on this front, it's that the absurdity of many of these stories has prompted something of a backlash.


Wikimedia Commons

Kids occasionally behave very badly and need to be sent home from school. It's tough to imagine a 3-year-old deserving such a severe punishment, though—not once, not twice, but five separate times.

At, Tunette Powell writes about the many, many suspensions handed down to her sons—ages 4 and 3—by overzealous preschool teachers and administrators:

I agreed his behavior was inappropriate, but I was shocked that it resulted in a suspension.

For weeks it seemed as if JJ was on the chopping block. He was suspended two more times, once for throwing another chair and then for spitting on a student who was bothering him at breakfast. Again, these are behaviors I found inappropriate, but I did not agree with suspension. …

So I punished JJ at home and ignored my concerns. Then, two months later, I was called to pick up my 3-year-old son, Joah. Joah had hit a staff member on the arm. After that incident, they deemed him a "danger to the staff." Joah was suspended a total of five times. In 2014, my children have received eight suspensions.

Powell, a black woman, notes the racial aspect of her sons' punishments. Black children receive suspensions much more frequently than white children, according to federal data. She writes:

I believe most educators want to help all children. But many aren't aware of the biases and prejudices that they, like all of us, harbor, and our current system offers very little diversity training to preschool staff.

I'm sure the punishments in some schools are enforced in an unfair, racially discriminatory way, and that this problem disproportionately impacts black children. But Powell should note that all children, not just racial minorities, are being suspended more and more frequently over trivial incidents. Schools increasingly see children acting out as a criminal matter that requires suspension, expulsion, or even police intervention.

If there's any good news on this front, it's that the absurdity of many of these stories has prompted something of a backlash. Some jurisdictions are even considering easing up on the "zero tolerance" rules that bind administrators to punish harshly for minor infractions.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

63 responses to “Kids or Criminals? Preschool Suspended a 3-Year-Old… Five Times

  1. Are black children being disciplined disproportionately to their behavior? Because that would be the relevant question.

    1. Are black children being disciplined disproportionately to their behavior? Because that would be the relevant question.

    2. ” Because that would be the relevant question.”

      Also a question that one dare not ask.

    3. That’s a good point that a lot of people seem to miss.

    4. The relevant question is:

      Why do we have government schools, when if government were not in the schooling business, this problem wouldn’t exist? Instead, parents could choose the school that disciplined their kids according to their standards?

  2. They actually classified a 3 year old as a “danger to the staff”?

    Maybe if he fell on them from a great height, but short of that . . . .

    1. Exactly, MM.
      As far as preschools doing stupid things, our youngest child was expelled because we asked questions about their new security system. The director went so far as to make a parting shot comment to the effect that I was supposedly having an affair with one of staff.
      We had our kid enrolled with a competitor in under 2 hours.

    2. We had a 3-year old student at my son’s school who was uncontrollable. The teacher, instructional aide, parent volunteers, and other students would leave school with bruises and scratches from this student. It wasn’t until a couple of parents filed a police report that the principal would intervene. Remember, teachers are not allowed to touch or confine students. So yes, a 3-year old can be a danger.

  3. Hitting, spitting, throwing a chair…those little scamps do sound like a handful.

    1. Hitting, spitting, throwing a chair….

      I’d throw the bastard out of my house and tell the mother not to come back until she’d taught her kid how to behave in public.

    2. yeah, I have no sympathy here, and I cannot take her seriously when she says there is a “preschool-to-prison” pipeline for black youth. #getserious

      1. ^This. If it’s a private school they need to just ask this family to leave instead of repeatedly expelling them.

  4. Is pre-school a public entity where she lives? If not, switch schools. I didn’t like the way my son’s preschool was run, and there was another school that was glad to take my money.

    1. This.

      Good argument against public pre-school.

      I paid $thousands (close to 100) for my kids’ pre-school. The boy misbehaved sometimes, but they never suspended him – or my check that cleared every month.

  5. This is why we need universal state-run preschool. That way obvious menaces to the social order like these kids can be detained for life at a DOA black site.

  6. I don’t know. What do you do with kids that throw chairs, spit on, and hit people? What would mom’s reaction be if a staffer swatted the kid after he hit them? It sounds like the kids are brats. I’d like to see the correspondence/meetings/etc the school had with mom as these incidents kept occurring.

  7. But many aren’t aware of the biases and prejudices that they, like all of us, harbor, and our current system offers very little diversity training to preschool staff.

    Shorter mom: “It’s because I’m black.”

    1. diversity training to preschool staff

      ‘You see, black people can hit and disrespect others without punishment. That is part of our culture. Any reactive consequences stemming from these actions are racist!’

  8. Tunette might just have a couple of kids who are so badly behaved that to be in preschool.

    Other parents might not want their kids to spend their days being spat on and dodging furniture tossed around by Ms Powell’s offspring, and the adults running the place have better things to do than chase after disruptive kids.

    1. Did you never get in a fight as a child? Does the fact you did make you a brat?

      News flash: three and four year olds sometimes misbehave

      If these kids were such brats, how come everything was fine for several months and then suddenly he gets put on the “dangerous to staff” blacklist and is suddenly getting in trouble routinely?

      1. There’s sometimes and then there is throwing a chair…twice.

        If these kids were such brats, how come everything was fine for several months and then suddenly he gets put on the “dangerous to staff” blacklist and is suddenly getting in trouble routinely?

        I give up. Why?

        1. What’s “throwing a chair”? Did the kid pick up an actual chair (is a three year old even physically picking up a real chair) and try to hit someone with it, or did they hit some flimsy plastic play stool and send it skittering across the floor?

          I don’t know why without having more details, but the possibility the staff decided to make and example of this kid for disrespecting their authoritah seems at least as likely as the kid suddenly turned evil after three months for absolutely no reason.

          1. More likely, as preschools are generally more interested in retaining paying customers than in expressing their authority over everyone, the kids were removed to retain the other parents’ money. I wouldn’t want my young kid to have to deal with a chair-throwing, spitting kid at preschool, and I don’t think I’m very different from most other parents.

            Potentially alienating one parent is better than alienating all the others. It was a reasonable business decision.

          2. Of course 3 year olds can pick up a chair and throw it…if it is a small chair. What a stupid question.

  9. “It’s tough to imagine a 3-year-old deserving such a severe punishment, though?not once, not twice, but five separate times.”


    1. This.

      “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

    2. Well, at 3 it is hard to say whether a child has the moral capacity to deserve any punishment.

      1. It’s very possible he’s not being punished by being sent home, but rather the school is showing all the other parents that they won’t have to worry about their kids spending their days with kids who spit and throw chairs.

    3. What makes anyone think the kid feels like he’s being punished? The mom is punished by having the kid around more of the day, but the kid is fine with it.

    4. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it.

  10. Bizarre article, Robby.

    Why is Ms Powell posting in a *Delaware* journal *now* about a *Nebraska* incident that occurred *months ago*?

    What does the photo have to do with anything?

    I was expelled from preschool and went on to serve more suspensions than I can remember. But I do remember my teachers’ disparaging words. I remember being told I was bad and believing it.

    Was she, in fact, “bad”?

    Why do I sound like Judge Napolitano?


    1. I really don’t get this article at all. This woman claims to be introspective but if she is to be believed, both of her children suffer from Jekyll/Hyde syndrome and it’s a total mystery to her what is going on.

      Come now.

    2. Why do I sound like Judge Napolitano?

      After last week I am now painfully aware of the empty rhetoric produced by asking incessant questions. As a preschool age child I was a biter. I bit people. Lots of people. I used proper protection and never broke the skin. It was fun.

      I probably should have been suspended, but going to preschool when you are already reading is fucking boring. So I bit people. If these kids would just bite the other kids instead of the teachers they probably wouldn’t be suspended. If I found out my kid was a biter I would send the spawn to preschool wearing a hannibal lector mask. We’d take pictures and show them to all their dates as a teenager. It’ll be sweet.

      1. “Proper protection”?

        Go on ….

        1. I bit the pretty girls when the teacher wasn’t looking.

  11. Being sent home for violent behavior =/= severe punishment.

  12. I am still trying to figure out what a 3 year old is going to learn in pre-school, or is this just a fancy term for daycare?

    What is the difference, instead of woman who only went to high school watching your kids you get someone who went to college watching your kids?

    1. Yeah, it’s daycare. Maybe they learn letters and numbers.

      I find the increasing moves toward universal pre-school kind of disturbing. Taking away parental responsibility and getting kids into the system earlier and earlier.

      1. Its part of the idea that all kids are from Lake Wobegon, where all kids are above average. And if you can’t make them above average after 12 years of school, you will after 13 or 14 or 18 etc years. They now start at 3 years and go onto past college. All in the name of creating equality. Next they will be taking kids after they are born. Equality must rule above all, even if it requires dumbing down everyone.

      2. I wish I could remember the European study I read that found kids don’t really need to be in school til age 8, and that if the parents didn’t teach them anything at all they could be caught up with their peers in 6 months. It also discussed how going to school too young can be detrimental to children. Children learn through play and need natural interactions with people, animals, and the outdoors. They don’t need stuffed in a building, strapped to a desk, and forced to do monotonous tasks all day; this kills imagination, the fun of learning, and the will to learn. My kids didn’t and won’t go to preschool, and my oldest is being homeschooled for kindergarten. He already reads very well. Besides, I don’t trust those power tripping retards with my kids (teachers/administrators).

        1. I don’t think you can get into Hogwarts until around 8.

    2. Mrs. Lurker and I send our child to a pre-school.

      The staff is quite vocal about the fact that “they are a school, not a daycare”.

      They have lessons and their is a structure to them. At 4 years of age, she could count to 100 and read some small words.

      How much of a difference is there between pre-school and day care? I’m not sure, but there is some.

      1. We’ve done both, and it’s pretty much a measure of the level of structure and formal training vs. free form playtime. Both provided some basic educational instruction and both had free form playtime and art projects. The school was more rigid in their approach and the day care less so.

  13. She’s got a four year old who throws chairs and spits on people and a three year old who hits people and she thinks maybe this is about race? Maybe not.

    1. *flashes teeth, prepares to bite*

  14. My kid at around three started acting out at daycare. At that point every day when I picked her up, I would ask her if she had a good day, then I’d ask the staff. On bad days she’d receive some sort of punishment, usually in the form of no dessert. The kid is totally food motivated. Anyway, it worked. By communicating with the staff and giving the kid some discipline, the problems quickly stopped. It’s called parenting, stupid.

    1. Forget that communication and cooperation stuff if you can pull the Ace of Race from your sleeve and toss it on the table.

      1. I wasn’t dealt any trump.

        1. Anybody can play the tranny card if they really want to.

          1. Corporal Klinger tried to play the tranny card, but couldn’t.

    2. This.

      Now, that said, the worst part of the immense overplaying of the race card these days is that it causes good people to forget that bias can be very real. You can be a fine human being and still react differently to the same action by two different kids because one of them is ‘not your people’. It’s one of those things you have to remind yourself about regularly.

      So, the school and the mom could both be right, here.

      1. When I had a conversation with the lady that owns the place, she said that kids get kicked out because of a lack of parental involvement. That’s how problems persist or get worse. Now it does take two. The staff has to do their part in communicating to the parents. But if the parents let the kid’s behavior slide, it always gets worse.

        To me this looks like a lazy parent playing the race card.

        1. I lean that way myself, mainly because I’ve used the same approach you mentioned in working on behavior problems with my kids in preschool, with the same good results. I get that it can be hard to start that conversation, but it’s part of the territory.

    3. Ah man…you missed your chance for a big lawsuit!!!

  15. Are other, white, kids NOT getting suspended for throwing chairs, spitting, and hitting staff?

  16. Hitting, spitting, and throwing chairs? The kid should have been sent home for the remainder of the year, not just suspended.

    Tell the parents to bring the kids back when they’re housebroken.

    1. Bu-bu-but…not hitting, not spitting, and not throwing chairs is just “acting white”.

  17. This is an ignorant article. Children are suspended from preschools because they are private businesses which have to assure the safety of their customers’ children or else go out of business. Kids who repeatedly demonstrate an inability to control their violence through typical restraint and education methods must be expelled to preserve a safe and friendly atmosphere for the rest. The expelled children’s parents can find a preschool which specializes in such hard cases and charges appropriately to do so or else those children can stay home with family. What’s the alternative, to turn preschool over to the state and have them subject to that dysfunctional monopoly system? Quit complaining about the market functioning correctly.

  18. Powell, a black woman, notes the racial aspect of her sons’ punishments. Black children receive suspensions much more frequently than white children, according to federal data.

    Blacks also commit murder at more than 7 times the rate of the rest of society. (13% of the population – blacks – commit 51% of all murders.) When the government imprisons black murderers, is that being “racist”?

    Maybe there’s another mechanism at work.

    Maybe blacks are just more violent than whites.

  19. Honestly, it is never easy to judge. Moms see their children from one way, while schools aren’t attached to kids emotionally that much. Therefore, it could be a misunderstanding that led to 5 times suspension. However, I indeed think that it is very easy to send students home instead of actually trying to solve things. School is where kids brought up. They should have discuss such behavior with the mother and ask her to co-operate. So it’s a fault on both ends as for me.
    Audrey with EssayOnlineStore Website

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.