By ALICE CHEKUNOVA, age 12
When children are over-disciplined it has a long-term impact on society and themselves. Students are being excessively punished by suspension and expulsion at ages as early as four or five, and there are harmful consequences. When the child is suspended, they won’t be educated. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson says, “We should not be putting students out of school for behaviors that they do naturally at that age. When students are out of schools, they cannot learn.”
The students who have been suspended might not be able to trust teachers to make them feel supported. Students will lack self-esteem and will be more likely to give up when challenged because others have given up on them. Tunette Powell, a mother of two preschool-aged boys, knows what it’s like to be suspended, saying, “I remember being told I was bad and believing it. I remember just how long it took me to believe anything else about myself.”
Powell’s three-year-old boy behaves well for the babysitter, but he’s been suspended five times from preschool. After talking to other parents, she found out her son, who is African American, was being punished more severely than his classmates.
There is a bigger inequality in society when children are over-disciplined. According to the Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-2012 school year, more than 8,000 public preschoolers were suspended more than once. Only 18 percent of preschoolers were African American, but they made up 48 percent of children who were suspended at least twice.
There are alternatives to suspending a student. For example a teacher could tell the parents what might happen if the student behaves inappropriately again. Students who have parents and teachers that encourage and support them are more likely to get into college and/or have enough confidence to be successful in their lives.