Moratorium on Kindergarten Suspensions
The SRC has voted to place a moratorium on the suspension of Kindergarten students. While this may seem admirable, the type and availability of in-school supports is crucial to the policy.
I know this from my 38 years as a School Counselor and 3 yrs prior as a 2nd grade teacher.
I’m not a believer in one size fits all educational policy. I’ve been appalled by statements of various school administrators across the country who’ve minimized the seriousness of this problem simply because adults can’t conceive that anything a 5 or 6 year old child can do can be that egregious. I understand the financial constraints this District is under, but effective supports matter to all.
Kindergarten aged students come to school with all sorts of age-appropriate issues, including separation anxiety, being so excited about being in school to the point of impulsivity, learning how to be part of a large group, real anxiety over learning expectations, much less actual academic learning differentials. Kindergarten teachers are masters at weaving social skill lessons to improve children’s self-esteem and coping skills into the academic curriculum.
However, when children whose issues are more serious join the class, it takes more than a teacher who’s just been exposed to an overview of de-escalation techniques, as important as that may be. The outbursts of such a student may be intermittent or long-lasting and can require extensive adult interaction. These children do not intend to do harm, but their needs are deep and time-consuming and require more individualized responses. Most have great parents who are at a loss and are seeking direction and support.
Let’s unpack what a child in distress may do in a classroom. Running around the room and even out of it, screaming, hitting/kicking others, overturning desks and chairs, throwing objects, including scissors, etc. And this despite a teacher’s close monitoring of classroom rules. And what about the other 29 students in the class? When a student’s distress escalates and/or is repeated throughout the school day, the effect on the education of other students is palpable. The parents of those other students become understandably angry and upset. Just ask your principals about the challenges such students present.
These are NOT bad children. They WANT to do well. They are children whose sense of security and well-being are damaged enough for any number of reasons and who have had so few life experiences to teach them that things can and will get better. They often grow up to do just fine in and out of school.
However, at this point they need more intensive attention and supports such as time-out accommodation rooms with counselors and other adults who can offer a safe place to de-escalate and work on their feeling safe and secure, with supportive reentry to the classroom, while other possible programming needs are being identified, as well as consultation with parents, outside therapists/resources and the School Team.
This is public education. We take all students. We teach all students.