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 DelawareOnline.com, 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.