ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Most adults can hardly remember their time spent in kindergarten or first grade, but a new study finds that students suspended during these early educational years often struggle to get themselves back on track later on in their academic lives.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Louisiana State University have found that students, especially boys, suspended from school while in kindergarten or first grade are more likely to be suspended again years later in elementary school and beyond. This can lead to a vicious cycle of more academic infractions that ultimately leads to these students dropping out of school altogether.
“Not only are children who are suspended at a young age missing out on time spent in early learning experiences, but they are also less likely to be referred to services and supports they need to thrive in later school years,” explains research fellow Zibei Chen in a statement.
Schools at every level use suspension as a way to discipline and remove disruptive students from classrooms. However, the study’s findings have caused researchers to question whether this disciplinary structure is really the best way to deal with problem children, especially at such a young and impressionable age.
After analyzing data collected by the LSU Social Research and Evaluation Center, researchers concluded that suspensions in kindergarten and first grade significantly predicted additional suspensions up to three years later.
Race also appears to play a role here as well; with the data indicating African American students are more likely to be suspended than Caucasian or Hispanic children. However, researchers made it a point to state that suspensions involving African Americans may be disproportionate due to some teachers’ racial biases.
The study also shows that, not surprisingly, young boys described by teachers as “aggressive, defiant and disruptive” were more likely to be suspended than girls, and were less engaged in the classroom. Girls who were considered disruptive and whose parents showed little interest in their education were also at a higher risk.
The study is published in the scientific journal Children and Youth Services Review.