Expulsion and Suspension Policy Statement
- Log No: CCDF-ACF-IM-2016-03
- Issuance Date: November 7, 2016
- Originating Office: Office of Child Care (OCC); Deputy Assistant Secretary’s Office on Early Childhood Development
- Key Words: Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), Expulsion and Suspension, Social-Emotional and Behavioral Health
State, Territorial, and Tribal Lead Agencies administering child care programs under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act, as amended, and other interested parties.
Expulsion and Suspension Policy Statement
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 9858 et seq.; U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Settings (2014)1
This Information Memorandum (IM) encourages Lead Agencies to adopt policies set forth in the Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Settings (PDF) issued by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education. Appendix 1 offers several free, publicly available resources states can use in their efforts.
CCDF provides block grants to states, territories, and tribes to support low-income working families through child care assistance for children age birth through 13 and to promote children’s learning by improving the quality of child care and education and afterschool care programs. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 into law, which reauthorized CCDF.
The CCDBG Act of 2014 includes provisions relevant to reducing expulsions and suspensions and promoting children’s social-emotional and behavioral health. In particular, the law requires states to provide certain information to families, the general public, and, where applicable, child care providers as part of consumer and provider education. That information must include their “policies regarding the social-emotional and behavioral health of young children, which may include positive behavioral intervention and support models and policies on expulsion of preschool-aged children, in early childhood programs receiving [CCDF] assistance.”2 The CCDF final rule, published September 30, 2016, requires Lead Agencies to provide information about age-appropriate social-emotional behavioral health policies for children from birth to school-age, and policies to prevent suspension, expulsion, and denial of services due to behavior of children birth to age 5 in child care and other early childhood programs.3 The CCDBG Act of 2014 also enables states to use quality improvement funds for professional development, including effective behavior management strategies and training, including positive behavior intervention and support models, that promote positive social and emotional development and reduce challenging behaviors, including reducing expulsions of preschool-aged children for such behaviors.4 This provision is also included in the CCDF final rule based on the Act, which clarifies that the strategies and training should be age appropriate and can extend from birth to school age, and include those that reduce suspensions and expulsions of children under age 5.5
Aligned with and in support of these provisions, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education jointly released a policy statement (PDF) in 2014, with state and local recommendations, to address expulsion and suspension in early learning settings, including child care. The policy statement affirms the Departments’ efforts to prevent and eventually eliminate expulsion and suspension and support young children’s social-emotional and behavioral health.6 Additionally, in 2015, the Office of Child Care released an informational memorandum (PDF) that highlights policies states can implement to promote children’s social, emotional, and behavioral development. Establishing expulsion and suspension policies was one of a host of recommendations included in that IM. This IM builds on the 2015 IM’s recommendation and expands on this important issue.7
Neuroscientists agree that the first 5 years of a child’s life are critical for building the foundation of learning, health, and wellness needed for success in school and later in life.8 During these years, children’s brains are developing rapidly, influenced by both positive and negative experiences. While access to high-quality child care benefits children’s development and learning, expulsion and suspension from child care can have detrimental effects, particularly on children’s social-emotional development and learning outcomes. Expulsion and suspension are stressful and negative experiences for children, their families, and their providers, and can set off a negative trajectory. Research indicates that expulsion and suspension early in a child’s trajectory predicts expulsion and suspension later in life. Children who are expelled or suspended from school are as much as 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure, hold negative school attitudes, and face incarceration than those who are not.
Furthermore, data consistently show racial disparities in expulsion and suspension. For example, recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights indicate that African-American boys make up 19 percent of preschool enrollment, but 45 percent of preschoolers suspended. African American girls represent 20 percent of female preschool enrollment, but 54 percent of female preschoolers suspended. 9
Suspensions and expulsions not only affect children; they also affect families by contributing to increased family stress and burden, and putting families’ employment at risk. In many cases, families of children who are suspended or expelled are called to pick up their child unexpectedly or to find a permanent new placement. In many occasions, there is a lapse in services, which leaves working families, particularly single parents -- parents without flexible work schedules, sick leave, or vacation time -- in difficult situations.10
Though each case is different, suspensions and expulsions may be products of misguided or lacking policies and/or insufficient training and support services for staff, especially in managing challenging behavior, recognizing trauma, and promoting social-emotional development. Research indicates that disparities in these practices may be influenced by implicit biases, uneven implementation of discipline policies, and under-resourced, inadequate education and training for teachers, especially in self-reflective strategies to identify and correct potential biases in perceptions and practice. 11,12,13,14
States are required to implement the provisions in the CCDBG Act of 2014 and the CCDF final rule. In addition, states are strongly encouraged to implement the state-level recommendations set forth in the HHS-ED policy statement that prevent and ultimately eliminate suspensions and expulsions from child care settings and promote children’s social-emotional and behavioral development. The policy statement also includes recommendations to early childhood programs, including child care programs. States should disseminate those recommendations and support child care programs in implementing them. A brief summary of state-level recommendations is below and a full policy statement (PDF) can be found online.
- Develop and Clearly Communicate Suspension and Expulsion Policies: States are strongly encouraged to establish statewide polices, applicable across settings, including publically and privately funded early childhood programs, to promote social-emotional and behavioral health and eliminate or severely limit the use of expulsion, suspension, and other exclusionary discipline practices. Policies should eliminate or limit these exclusionary practices to be used only as a last resort in extraordinary circumstances where there is a serious safety concern that cannot be reduced or eliminated with reasonable modifications. Given the disparities noted in the data, states should ensure that policies are not disproportionately impacting any group of children.
- Set Goals for Improvement and Analyze Data to Assess Progress: States should build capacity to collect and analyze statewide data on expulsions, suspensions, and other exclusionary discipline practices. States should coordinate data across early childhood programs and track information on workforce professional development in social-emotional development, access to behavioral or mental health specialists, and numbers of children suspended and expelled, ensuring that data are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and disability status to track disparities.
- Invest in Workforce Training, Preparation and Development: The CCDBG Act directs states to use a percentage of funds on activities that enhance the quality of child care programs, including activities related to behavior management and supporting children’s social-emotional development to reduce expulsions. States can support their workforce in preventing and eliminating suspensions and expulsions through a variety of mechanisms, including through statewide coaching models such as early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) and positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS), and by better incorporating social-emotional and behavioral development in entry-level credentials, across all levels of career pathways, and in pre-service training, by partnering with higher education.
- Establish and Implement Policies Regarding Program Quality: Several factors related to the overall quality of early childhood programs are predictive of suspensions and expulsions. States should target these quality factors to assist in their efforts to prevent or eliminate suspensions and expulsions. For example:
- Staff qualifications should be high and professional development should be provided on an ongoing basis, including professional development that addresses social-emotional and behavioral development and exclusionary discipline practices.
- Programs should adhere to group sizes and child/adult ratios no greater than those recommended in the Caring for Our Children Visit disclaimer page .
- Teachers should use developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive practices and evidence-based curricula, and create learning environments aligned with the state early learning and development standards.
- Children should have access to comprehensive services and individual accommodations and supports.
- Health and safety standards should be met and programs should be evaluated for continuous improvement.
- Access Free Resources to Develop and Scale Best Practices: States should access free resources to assist in eliminating suspensions and expulsions in child care settings. ACF’s new Training and Technical Assistance System provides resources and training on a variety of issues, including issues related to suspension and expulsion, children’s health and wellbeing, and development, teaching, and learning. Technical assistance resources from Center for the Social Emotional Foundation of Early Learning Visit disclaimer page offers helpful information for states interested in implementing statewide age-appropriate PBIS. The Center of Excellence for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Visit disclaimer page will offer a comprehensive toolkit on building ECMHC systems in the fall of 2016. Appendix 1 provides several free resources that states can access, as appropriate, to address expulsion and suspension practices.
APPENDIX 1: Resources for States on Supporting Children’s Social-Emotional Development and Preventing Expulsion and Suspension
2 Section § 658E(c)(2)(E)(i)(VII) of the CCDBG Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9858c(c)(2)(E)(i)(VII).
3 45 CFR 98.16(ee) and 98.33(b)(1)(v).
4 Section 658G(b)(1)(C) of the CCDBG Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9858e(b)(1)(C).
5 45 CFR 98.53(a)(1)(iii).
7 Office of Child Care (2015). Information memorandum on State policies to promote social-emotional and behavioral health of young children in child care settings in partnership with families, CCDF-ACF-IM-2015-01
8 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips, eds. Board on Children, Youth, and Families. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC.: National Academy Press.
9 U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (2016). A First Look: Key data highlights on equity and opportunity gaps in our nation’s public schools.
10 Van Egeren, L.A., Kirk, R., Brophy-Herb, H.E., Carlson, J. S., Tableman, B. & Bender, S. (2011). An Interdisciplinary Evaluation Report of Michigan’s Child care Expulsion Prevention (CCEP) Initiative. Michigan State University
11 Lamont, J. H., Devore, C. D., Allison, M., Ancona, R., Barnett, S. E., Gunther, R., ... & Young, T. (2013). Out-of -school suspension and expulsion. Pediatrics, 131(3), e1000-e1007.
12 American Psychological Association, Zero Tolerance Task Force Report(2008). An evidentiary review and recommendations.
13 Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The Achievement Gap and the Discipline Gap Two Sides ofthe Same Coin?.? Educational Researcher, 39 (1), 59-68.
14 Skiba, R. J., Horner, R. H., Chung, C. G., Rausch, M., May, S. L., & Tobin, T. (2011). Race is not neutral: A national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline. School Psychology Review, 40(1), 85