High Teacher Stress Linked to Increased Expulsion Requests

In 2018, a law went into effect that aimed to end the practice of expelling students from early childhood programs and preschool education that are funded through the Illinois State Board of Education. The bill, HB 2663, also required the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to develop rules to prevent licensed day care, and similar institutions, from expelling young children for exhibiting challenging behavior.

The passage of this legislation was significant as it was considered one of the most progressive pieces of expulsion legislation in the nation. The bill was created in response to federal education data from 2005 that shows three times as many Illinoisan preschoolers are expelled than students in grades K-12. However, it has yet to live up to its potential.

A 2019 study led by Kate Zinsser, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), found that over a third of Illinois preschools expelled a young child within the past year and nearly half of them sent children home early. Notably, programs in Chicago expelled on average almost 4% of their enrollment, which is almost triple that of programs outside the city.

Zinsser connected the findings to her previous research that showed teachers who report high stress levels and a lack of availability of mental health consultants, were more likely to request expulsions. She has recommended for practices within child care centers to change. However, this is much dependent on an increased investment in resources statewide, like access to mental health consultants and changing teacher training programs.

It’s important for teachers entering the field to develop coping skills and how to work through challenges with the students and their families, as access to quality education when students are young allows them to have the best chance at success in their lives.

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