At what age do children understand what it means to be suspended from school? (Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST)

“Some researchers and critics question whether children in the early grades should ever be suspended. The goal should be teaching appropriate behavior, they say, not sending students home,” writes Post staff writer Donna St. George in an article on the frequency and merits of suspending children.

“A Washington Post analysis of data for 13 of the region’s school systems found that last school year more than 6,112 elementary students, from pre-kindergarten through grade 5, were suspended or expelled for hitting, disrupting, disrespecting, fighting and other offenses.

The total includes 433 kindergartners, 677 first-graders, 813 second-graders and 1,086 third-graders. More than 50 pre-kindergartners were suspended,” says St. George.

She shows a range of perspectives in her story, citing the opinions of people such as Walter S. Gilliam, author of a national study on pre-kindergarten expulsions and director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at the Yale Child Study Center, and Lawrence Jointer, director of hearings, investigations and student alternative services in Alexandria.

Gilliam says suspension is at odds with teaching social and behavioral skills many young students lack. However, Jointer says discipline problems appear to have intensified during his career of four decades and he’s seen “aggressive behavior from kindergarten on up.”

“I understand it gets to a point where principals and teachers feel they’ve tried everything they can,” he said. Sometimes, suspension is a way to “drive the point home: ‘This is serious behavior we’re dealing with at school, and we need your support.’ ”

Do you think there is ever reason for children in grades as low as pre-kindergarten to be suspended? Can students be too young for this form of punishment?

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