Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education

Submission Type



Preschool children are suspended and expelled at a rate greater than school-aged youth, and exclusionary discipline practices are further inequitable across racial and ethnic groups. Denied the documented benefits of early childhood education, Black students are disproportionately excluded from US educational institutions beginning in early childhood, effectively preserving and reproducing racial inequities. Black students, especially boys, are the most likely to lose access to schooling due to exclusionary discipline. The disparities are dehumanizing and detrimental to students’ opportunities to learn, as early educational experiences greatly influence development and future outcomes. Although there is a plethora of evidence concerning the significant role of space, place, and relationships in early childhood education, less is understood about how these act independently and interact to create racial and ethnic disparities in discipline within preschools. In this conceptual paper, we argue that decolonizing early childhood education requires a novel approach in how we think about racial inequalities in discipline that centers the conversation on context and incorporates the interrelated frameworks of geography of opportunity, ecological systems theory, and the youth control complex. Children’s interactions with adults in school are situated in a particular space and place and within a complex nexus between the school, home, and neighborhood contexts. It is imperative to decolonize geographically stratified classroom management, manifested through exclusionary school discipline of young children, for the possibility of more equitable educational opportunity.