Discipline needs an overhaul

By Abbie Lieberman
April 2021
Picture a 6-year-old child sobbing and pleading to stay at school while a police officer escorts her through the building and puts her into the back of his police car. That’s what a disturbing and heart-wrenching body camera video showed last February (it went viral): a young Black girl, Kaia Rolle, being handcuffed with zip ties by a school resource officer in Orlando, Florida (Toohey, 2020). Kaia was arrested for reportedly throwing a tantrum earlier in the day that resulted in her kicking a staff member. In the video, Kaia does not appear to be posing an immediate threat to anyone when the officer enters the room to arrest her; she’s sitting calmly in a school employee’s office. This isn’t the first video or story

Read the remaining content with membership access. Join or log in below to continue.

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

Log In


Ansari, A. & Gershoff, E. (2016). Parent involvement in Head Start and children’s development: Indirect effects through parenting. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78, 562-579. doi:10.1111/jomf.12266

Brennan, E.M., Bradley, J.R., Dallas Allen, M., & Perry, D.F. (2008, December 12). The evidence base for mental health consultation in early childhood settings: Research synthesis addressing staff and program outcomes. Early Education and Development, 19(6).

Children’s Equity Project & Bipartisan Policy Center. (2020, July 6). Addressing harsh discipline and disparities: What we know, what we don’t know, and what we should do about it.

Crenshaw, K., Ocen, P., & Nanda, J. (2015). Black girls matter: Pushed out, overpoliced, and underprotected. African American Policy Forum & Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies.

Early Childhood Consultation Partnership. (n.d.). About us.

Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., & Reyes, C.R. (2016, June 28). Early childhood mental health consultation: Results of a statewide random-controlled evaluation. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(9).

Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., Reyes, C.R., Accavitti, M., & Shic, F. (2016, September 28). 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.

Gilliam, W.S. (2008, January). Implementing policies to reduce the likelihood of preschool expulsion. Foundation for Child Development.

Gilliam, W.S. (2005, January 27). Pre-kindergartners left behind: Expulsion rates in state pre-kindergarten programs. Zero to Three.

Jackson, S. (2019, July 3). Seeing a birth of hope: Training teachers in trauma-informed classroom practice. New America.

Lindsey, C.A. & Hart, C.M.D. (2016). Teacher race and school discipline. Education Next.

Malik, R. (2017, November 6). New data reveal 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day. Center for American Progress.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2016, April 22). Standing together against suspension & expulsion in early childhood.

Rafa, A. (2019, January 14). The status of school discipline in state policy. Education Commission of the States.

State of Connecticut. (2015). Substitute Senate Bill No. 1053, Public Act No. 15-96.

Toohey, G. (2020, February 4). Body camera video: 6-year-old girl cries, screams for help as Orlando police arrest her at school. Orlando Sentinel.

U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2014, March). Data snapshot: Early childhood education, Issue Brief No. 2.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Policy statement on expulsion and suspension policies in early childhood settings.

+ posts

Abbie Lieberman ( is senior policy analyst at New America.

The Learning Professional

Published Date


  • Recent Issues

    June 2021

    Professional learning is an essential lever for achieving equity for all...

    April 2021

    The early years of school matter for all of us, because they lay the...

    February 2021

    Amid crisis, there is opportunity that can galvanize change. This issue...

    December 2020

    Excellent educators are made, not born, and it takes a system-wide...