Preschool Student Suspension/Expulsion Guidance
In light of recent media attention and discussion regarding suspension/expulsion of preschool students, it is necessary to remind all superintendents, supervisors and directors that under state regulations, N.J.A.C. 6A:13A-4.4(g), "Preschool students in a general education program or special education program shall not be suspended, long-term or short-term, and shall not be expelled." Our goal in the Abbott Preschool Program is to prepare young children to succeed in school and suspending or expelling children fails to accomplish that goal. More importantly, suspending or expelling preschoolers is not an age-appropriate method for addressing behavioral problems. There are no short-term or long-term outcomes that will benefit a child when he/she cannot be in school to receive the needed support services due to out of school disciplinary measures.
As more preschoolers enroll in the program, there will be an increase in the challenging behaviors exhibited by children. To that end, the Office of Early Childhood has funded one preschool intervention and referral team (PIRT) for every 750 preschool students. In districts with less than 750 preschool children, one team is allocated for every 750 children in preschool through grade three. Although the primary role of the PIRT is to increase inclusion of children in general preschool classrooms and decrease referrals for special education, the PIRT also serves as an essential resource to preschool classroom staff to modify children's behaviors that block successful participation in a general preschool classroom. Preschool staff can also learn to adapt teaching practices to assist all children in meeting the Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards. Members of the PIRT will also plan and implement professional development and coordinate with district special services department and child study teams to ensure seamless preschool programming. In cases where problem behaviors cannot be adequately addressed through the implementation of behavior support plans, the PIRT can refer children directly to the school district Child Study Team as set forth in N.J.A.C. 6a:14.
Challenging behaviors exhibited by preschool children must be addressed in the context of a comprehensive approach to behavior support that is designed to teach, nurture and encourage positive social behaviors. Districts should seek to involve families, administrators, teachers and other auxiliary staff to provide support to children and prepare them for successful preschool experiences.