Millions of children will enter kindergarten this fall having never experienced the routines of preschool because of the pandemic. Many will likely have trouble following directions, playing cooperatively, and self-regulating through the stresses of new group settings with strangers. Quite a few will have developmental disabilities that were not identified or treated during the pandemic lockdown, which will make them even more likely to act out. Without intervention, past research tells us we can expect far more suspensions, expulsions and referrals to special education for behavioral challenges — especially for Black boys, Latino boys and Black girls, whom research has shown are far more likely to be identified as behavior problems by teachers than white children.
In a commentary in the Chicago Tribune, Start Early president Diana Rauner writes about how an entire cohort of children, disproportionately low-income children of color, are at risk of exclusion from the opportunities of education because of the circumstances of the past year and a half. It’s on all of us, the adults in these children’s lives, to help to ensure they are not unfairly stigmatized because of events beyond their control.