Preschool students build a structure from plastic interlocking tubes. Credit: Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages.

“You have to promise me that you’re going to make sure he doesn’t get kicked out of school.”

This was the first thing a parent told Tara Kirton, who was working at the time as a one-on-one traveling teacher for special education preschool students.

Preschool suspensions have been studied since the late ‘90s, and rates have been relatively unchanged since then, according to a 2022 paper. Early childcare and education remain the “highest-risk” period for expulsion and suspension, the paper said, as children are three times more likely to be expelled during this time than during their K-12 careers.

Kirton experienced this both working in the classroom and when her own son was in preschool. It also helped shape her studies, as Kirton is both a doctoral student and full-time instructor of early childhood education at Teachers College, Columbia University. 

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