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DHSS recommends Delaware collect data on preschool expulsions

Delaware Public Media

Recent national data shows high rates of preschool students being suspended or expelled. It’s also an issue in the First State.

Delaware Health and Social Services has released best practices to prevent the suspension or expulsion of preschoolers.

But DHSS adds while the state doesn’t track the number of expulsions or suspensions by any race or gender disparities, it should.

State Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-Middletown) said tracking expulsion data has been a challenge.

“The sad thing about early childhood is that it’s actually three different departments and 11 different divisions that actually regulate or actually have some sort of hand to play in early childhood,” he said.

The Center for American Progress reported last year it found 250 two-and-three-year-old kids were suspended or expelled nationwide every school day in 2016. Black children were twice as likely to be affected.

Statistics collected by the Obama administration in 2014 show nationally black preschoolers have been disproportionately suspended or expelled.

Johnson said he believes mental health is more of the issue than racial discrimination in Delaware. He said some preschools lack properly trained staff to handle behavioral issues.

“They’re still private businesses again, customers choose to go to them, they get to choose, within legal means, who their customers are," he said. "And they cannot discriminate of course under any means, but this is a situation from a behavioral standpoint.”

The issue of preschool expulsions and suspensions could be addressed in the state’s new strategic plan for early childhood education. Delaware is getting a $4.2 million-dollar federal early education grant to develop that plan.

Johnson suggests Delaware could use some of the grant to reduce preschool expulsions. He adds legislation mandating tracking expulsions could also be introduced.

The Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidelines aimed at reducing widespread racial disparities in school discipline last month.

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