- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Report intended to keep more kids in school
By LAURA BUCKStaff writer
The Calvert County Board of Education plans to write a letter against a recent Maryland State Board of Education report on school suspensions, written in effort to keep more kids in school.
The Calvert County Board of Education met Thursday with its attorney Dario Agnolutto who said the basic recommendations of the report — for which comments are due by March 30 — are focussed on keeping kids in school, providing education when kids are out of school and avoiding discrimination.
“We’re not out of the line generally with where they’re trying to go with this report,” Agnolutto said.
What the board was criticizing, however, was the report’s recommendation that suspended students return to school if no decision is made on their case within 10 days, unless the student was suspended for an act of violence.
Agnolutto said that even non-violent threats to students and teachers could be “every bit as threatening as a physical attack.”
Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith also pointed out that a student dealing drugs or saying a racial slur would not be considered “violent.”
“This doesn’t make room for a response,” Smith said.
According to the Calvert County Board of Education’s Master Plan in the 2010 to 2011 school year the majority, 587, of in-school suspensions were for disrespect and insubordination and the majority, 526, of out-of-school suspensions were for attacks, threats and fighting.
Ten-and-a-half percent of male students; less than 5 percent of female students; and 7.3 percent of total students were suspended in school during the 2010 to 2011 school year.
Less than 5 percent of both black and white students were suspended in and out of school during the 2010 to 2011 school year.
Less than 5 percent of female students; 8.8 percent of male students; and 6.4 percent of total students were suspended out of school during the 2010 to 2011 school year.
“This is really getting people that aren’t doing their job,” Calvert County Board of Education member Eugene Karol said of the state board report.
“We return students to school as soon as possible,” Smith said, adding that he does not recall seeing a student get expelled within the past nine years that he’s been with the CCPS central office.
The report suggested that the word “expulsion” be changed to “extended suspension” in the cases in which a student was away from school for 10 or more days.
The report also said teachers would need to provide daily homework assignments and grading for suspended students, which the CCPS board members opposed.
“The workload that would put on our teachers would be unbelievable,” said CCPS Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh.
“It basically makes suspensions a non-event for students,” said Calvert County Board of Education member Tracy McGuire.
CCPS Executive Director of Administration Kim Roof said suspended students in Calvert schools are already allowed to make up work for as many days as they’ve been suspended.
Roof said the report seemed to be “headed in the direction where you won’t be able to suspend a student unless it’s for the most egregious acts.”
“It would become another bureaucratic nightmare,” Smith said of the daily homework assignments and grading teachers would need to do if the report was approved.
Currently within CCPS, the only students who need to have daily homework assignments when suspended are special education students.
“While we find that more difficult to do, that’s what we have to do,” said CCPS Director of Special Education Annette Lagana.
Smith said what angered him the most about the report was that as far as he knew, individual school systems were never asked about their “best practices.”
“We get kids back into school as soon as possible. No one’s ever asked me about that,” Smith said.
McGuire said she was “appalled” that the state board seemed to suspect that some students could be suspended as an act of retribution by school staff.
“It has nothing to do with revenge,” Smith said, continuing that sometimes suspensions are necessary to ensure that students and staff “are safe and well cared for.”
The Calvert County Board of Education asked Agnolutto to write a letter to the state board expressing its disapproval of the report.
According to the Maryland State Department of Education website, the Maryland State Board of Education intends to review the report and the commentary at its April 24 meeting.