A Consultation Approach to Target Exclusionary Discipline of Students of Color in Early Childhood Education

  • Adrienne GarroEmail author
  • Keri Giordano
  • Aaron Gubi
  • Kendahl Shortway
Tools for Practice


Black students comprise approximately 19% of the preschool population, yet they represent 47% of school suspensions (U.S. Department of Education 2016). Although it is posited that most teachers seek to serve all children to the best of their abilities, research indicates that many school personnel engage in implicit biases that influence their perceptions, behaviors, and interactions with students (Boser et al. 2014). Studies have also found that racial ethnic minority status influences the quality of individual education and level of access to fair and appropriate accommodations a student receives (Farkas Teachers College Record 105:1119–1146, 2003; Magnuson and Waldfogel 2008). Thus, white privilege exerts itself at the start of schooling among our youngest and most vulnerable students and can contribute to increasing racial injustice as these children develop throughout the lifespan. In the current article, we present a multifaceted consultation approach intended to target factors that underlie disproportionate rates of preschool expulsion among black and other children of color. This approach incorporates (a) a systems and contextual perspective to collaborate with preschool programs in promoting effective equity and discipline practices; (b) data-based assessment and decision-making to obtain specific information about programs’ discipline practice and to advance the use of positive behavioral strategies; and (c) interventions to reduce implicit bias and address vulnerable decision points in discipline, with an emphasis on prevention and cultural competence.


Early childhood consultation Exclusionary discipline Implicit bias Preschool expulsion 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. ACLU. (2018). School-to-prison pipeline. Retrieved August 11, 2018 from:
  2. Albritton, K., Mathews, R. E., & Boyle, S. G. (2019). Is the role of the school psychologist in early childhood truly expanding? A national survey examining school psychologists’ practices and training experiences. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 35(1), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Artman-Meeker, K. M., Hemmeter, M. L., & Snyder, P. (2014). Effects of distance coaching on teachers’ use of Pyramid Model practices: a pilot study. Infants & Young Children, 27, 325–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benner, G. J., Kurtash, K., Nelson, J. R., & Fisher, M. B. (2013). Closing the achievement gap of youth with emotional and behavioral disorders through multi-tiered systems of support. Education and Treatment of Children, 36(3), 15–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bollman, K. A., Silberglitt, B., & Gibbons, K. A. (2007). The St. Croix River education district model: Incorporating systems-level organization and a multi-tiered problem-solving process for intervention delivery. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Handbook of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 319–330). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boser, U., Wilhelm, M., & Hanna, R. (2014). The power of the Pygmalion Effect: Expectations have a deep influence on student performance. Retrieved from: Scholar
  7. Burchinal, M., et al. (2011). Examining the black–white achievement gap among low-income children using the NICHD study of early child care and youth development. Child Development, 82(5), 1404–1420. Scholar
  8. Chin, J., Dowdy, E., Jimerson, S., & Rime, W. J. (2012). Alternatives to suspension: Rationale and recommendations. Journal of School Violence, 11, 156–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Czopp, A. M., Monteith, M. J., & Mark, A. Y. (2006). Standing up for a change: Reducing bias through interpersonal confrontation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 784–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Devine, P. G., Forscher, P. S., Austin, A. J., & Cox, W. T. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: a prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(6), 1267–1278. Scholar
  11. Dorman, R. L., Anthony, E., Osborne-Fears, B., & Fischer, R. L. (2017). Investing in high quality preschool: Lessons from an urban setting. Early Years, 37(1), 91–107. Scholar
  12. Duran, L. K., Bloom, S. E., & Samaha, A. L. (2013). Adaptations to a functional behavior assessment with a Spanish-speaking preschooler: a data-based case study. Education and Treatment of Children, 36(1), 73–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emerson, L., et al. (2017). Teaching mindfulness to teachers: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. Mindfulness, 8(5), 1136–1149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Espinosa, L. M. (2002). High-quality preschool: why we need it and what it looks like. Preschool Policy Matters. Issue 1. National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved May 15, 2019 from
  15. Farkas, G. (2003). Racial disparities and discrimination in education: what do we know, how do we know it, and what do we need to know? Teachers College Record, 105(6), 1119–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fenning, P., & Rose, J. (2007). Overrepresentation of African-American students in exclusionary discipline: the role of school policy. Urban Education, 42, 536–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 1–74). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Friedman-Krauss, A. H., Raver, C. C., Neuspiel, J. M., & Kinsel, J. (2014). Child behavior problems, teacher executive functions, and teacher stress in Head Start classrooms. Early Education and Development, 25(5), 681–702. Scholar
  19. Fox, L., Dunlap, G., Hemmeter, M.L., Joseph, G.E., & Strain, P.S. (2003). The Teaching Pyramid: A model for supporting social competence and preventing challenging behavior in young children. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. Vanderbilt University. Module 4 Handout 4.7: Leadership Strategies. Retrieved December 8, 2018 from
  20. Gilliam, W. S. (2005). Pre-kindergartners left behind: Expulsion rates in state pre-kindergarten systems. New York: Foundation for Child Development.Google Scholar
  21. Gilliam, Gilliam, W. S., Maupin, A. N., & Reyes, C. R. (2016a). Early childhood mental health consultation: Results of a statewide random-controlled evaluation. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(9), 754–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., Reyes, C.R., Acavitti, M. & Shic, F. (2016b). Do early educators’ implicit biases regarding sex and race relate to behavior expectations and recommendations of preschool expulsions and suspensions? Yale University Child Study Center: A Research Study Brief. Retrieved September 1, 2018 from
  23. Good, J. J., Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Sanchez, D. T. (2012). When do we confront? Perceptions of costs and benefits predict confronting discrimination on behalf of the self and others. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(2), 210–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hemmeter, M. L., Hardy, J. K., Schnitz, A. G., Adams, J. M., & Kinder, K. M. (2015). Effects of training and coaching with performance feedback on teachers’ use of Pyramid Model practices. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 35(3), 144–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ingraham, C. (2015). Competencies for systems-level consultants within diverse schools. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 25(2-3), 148–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jennings, P. A. (2015a). Early childhood teachers’ well-being, mindfulness, and self- compassion in relation to classroom quality and attitudes towards challenging students. Mindfulness, 6, 732–743. Scholar
  27. Jennings, P.A. (2015b). Seven ways mindfulness can help teachers. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved May 20, 2019 from Scholar
  28. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lochner, L. & Moretti, E. (2003). The effect of education on crime: Evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports. Retrieved September 1, 2018 from
  30. Maag, J. W. (2012). School-wide discipline and the intransigency of exclusion. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2094–2100. Scholar
  31. Magnuson, K. & Waldfogel, J. (2008). Steady gains and stalled progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score Gap. New York, NY: The Russell Stage Foundation.Google Scholar
  32. Malik, R. (2017). New data reveal 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day. Center for American Progress. Retrieved August 17, 2018 from:
  33. McGoey, K. E., Rispoli, K., Schneider, D. L., Clark, B., & Novak, K. J. (2013). Improving behavior with preschool consultation: a pilot study of the TOTS model. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 23(3), 185–199. Scholar
  34. McIntosh, K., Girvan, E. J., Horner, R. H., & Smolkowski, K. (2014). Education not incarceration: a conceptual model for reducing racial and ethnic disproportionality in school discipline. Journal of Applied Research on Children, 5(2), 4 Available at: Scholar
  35. Moreno, G., Wong-Lo, M., Shon, M., & Bullock, L. M. (2014). Implementing a culturally attuned functional behavioral assessment to understand and address challenging behaviors demonstrated by students from diverse backgrounds. Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties, 19(4), 343–355. Scholar
  36. Noguero, P. A. (1995). Preventing and producing violence: a critical analysis of responses to school violence. Harvard Educational Review, 65(2), 189–213 Retrieved September 15, 2018 from Scholar
  37. Ohio State University. The Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. (2015). Implicit bias. Retrieved August 10, 2018 from:
  38. Okonofua, J. A., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2015). Two strikes: Race and the disciplining of young students. Psychological Science, 26(5), 617–624. Scholar
  39. Payne, B. K., & Gawronski, B. (2010). A history of implicit social cognition. In B. Gawronski & B. K. Payne (Eds.), Handbook of implicit social cognition: Measurement, theory, and applications (pp. 1–18). New York: Guilford Publications.Google Scholar
  40. Price, C. L., & Steed, E. A. (2016). Culturally responsive strategies to support young children with challenging behavior. Young Children, 71(5) Retrieved May 12, 2019 from
  41. Shepley, C., & Grisham-Brown, J. (2019). Multi-tiered systems of support for preschool-aged children: a review and meta-analysis. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 47, 296–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Skiba, R. J., et al. (2011). Race is not neutral: a national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline. School Psychology Review, 30, 85–107.Google Scholar
  43. Skiba, R. J., Arredondo, M. I., & Williams, N. T. (2014). More than a metaphor: The contribution of exclusionary discipline to a school-to-prison pipeline. Equity and Excellence in Education., 47(4), 546–564. Scholar
  44. Smolkowski, K., Girvan, E. J., McIntosh, K., Nese, R. N. T., & Horner, R. H. (2016). Vulnerable decision points for disproportionate office discipline referrals: comparisons of discipline for African American and White elementary school students. Behavioral Disorders, 41(4), 178–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sutherland, K. S., et al. (2018). Reducing child problem behaviors and improving teacher child interactions and relationships: a randomized controlled trial of BEST in CLASS. EarlyChildhood Research Quarterly, 42, 31–43.Google Scholar
  46. The Sentencing Project. (2017). Fact sheet: Black disparities in young incarceration. Retrieved August 15, 2018 from:
  47. U.S. Department of Education. (2015). A matter of equality: Preschool in America. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  48. U.S. Department of Education & Office of Civil Rights. (2016). 2013-2014 civil rights data collection: New release for 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2018 from:
  49. Vuyk, M. A., Sprague-Jones, J., & Reed, C. (2016). Early childhood mental health consultation: an evaluation of effectiveness in a rural community. Infant Mental Health Journal, 37(1), 66–79. Scholar

Copyright information

© California Association of School Psychologists 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Advanced Studies in PsychologyKean UniversityHillsideUSA

Personalised recommendations