What Does Early Intervention Have to do With School Suspension?

Early Childhood Interventions April 01, 2015

Greater, Greater Washington featured an article highlighting the suspension of children from pre-kindergarten classes and how local early intervention and special education services may be part of the solution.

According to a report from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), 181 children in DC public and charter pre-kindergarten classes were given out-of-school suspensions in 2012-2013. (Note: This is just for certain types of suspensions required to be reported to the federal government. The actual number of pre-kindergarten suspensions was likely much higher.) A similar report from DC Lawyers for Youth found that one DC charter school pre-kindergarten program suspended more than 10% of their students in 2011-2012. Often, children are suspended for offenses like temper tantrums, toileting incidents and other developmentally appropriate behavior for 3- and 4-year olds.

The Greater, Greater Washington reporter raises the question of whether some of these suspensions may be due to undiagnosed disabilities and special needs. These young children may have significant developmental needs that cannot be adequately addressed by 1 teacher in a classroom of 15 or 20 students unless she is provided with support.

Ideally, children with special needs should be identified prior to starting pre-kindergarten, through the city’s Strong Start , DC Early Intervention Program or Early Stages, the DC Public Schools Child Find program. Eligible children can then receive supportive services at home and in school. But many children are not being identified early enough or may not qualify for services despite their challenges. Despite expanding the eligibility requirements for the DC Early Intervention Program and increasing access to eligibility evaluations for preschool through Early Stages, many are still unaware of these supports and services for children who have developmental delays or disabilities.

DC is poised to further expand access to services for young children with developmental delays and disabilities, by lowering the threshold for developmental delay. New legislation will require Strong Start, DC Early Intervention to lower the eligibility requirements and to decrease the evaluation time for determining eligibility for pre-school special education through the DC Public Schools.. While there are some questions about Strong Start DC’s or the DC Public School’s ability to handle the potential influx of newly eligible children, we can all agree that identifying children in need of early intervention services or preschool special education services earlier and getting them the support they need will benefit DC’s children and schools. There are few reasons why a 4-year-old should be suspended, but many reasons why the child and their family may need extra support to succeed in pre-kindergarten and beyond.

Lindsay Ferrer GU Certificate in Early Intervention Student


Rothschild, A. (2014, September 22). Wondering why a preschooler would ever need to be suspended? Here’s an explanation. Greater Greater Washington. Available at http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24282/wondering-why-a-preschooler-would-ever-need-to-be-suspended-heres-an-explanation/

District of Columbia, Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2014). Reducing out-of school-suspensions and expulsions in the District of Columbia and Public Charter Schools. Washington, DC: Author Available at http://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/OSSE_REPORT_DISCIPLINARY_G_PAGES.pdf

DC Lawyers for Youth (2014). District discipline: The overuse of school suspension and expulsion in the District of Columbia. Washington, DC. The Every Student Every Day Coalition. Available at http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dcly/pages/64/attachments/original/1371689930/District_Discipline_Report.pdf?1371689930