- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Maryland State Board of Education has released a draft of its report titled “School Discipline and Academic Success: Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform.” The report suggests that students should only be suspended for more than 10 days if they have committed a violent act and asks that teachers provide daily assignments for students while they are suspended. MSDE said its members began a review of school discipline and the use of long-term suspensions and expulsions about two years ago. That examination followed the release of a state board opinion in an appeal involving the expulsion of a ninth-grade student for most of the school year, during which time the student received intermittent homework assignments but no follow-up, grading or interaction with school personnel.
The state board expects to adopt new regulations within the next few months.
And in the meantime, there is a state senator from Prince George’s County who wants school systems to come up with an alternative placement that allows suspended and expelled students to keep up with their school work. His proposal is that they’d no longer be sent home, they would remain in school, but somewhere where they wouldn’t interfere with the education of other students. Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D) says he will introduce legislation next year that would establish a policy that ensures education continues even when students are suspended or expelled. He makes a good point: Students misbehave in school and are, in a sense, rewarded with suspension. They’re essentially sent home to take a break from their education, often with no supervision during the day.
Rosapepe’s suggestion raises questions such as, where would you put these students serving their suspensions in school and who would be in charge of them? It seems like there would be extra costs involved in coming up with alternative education locations and providing the needed supervision. And the state’s plan isn’t without its challenges, too. Do teachers have the time and resources to make sure students in an alternative setting are supervised, receive assignments and the assignments are graded? That could entail hiring more teachers. School budgets are already tight and the needs of the school systems are great.
The reality is that there are some cases in which a child must be removed from school. School safety should be of the utmost importance. Learning can’t be accomplished if students don’t have a safe environment in which to work. And on the other hand, the schools must make sure that all students receive the services they are entitled to. There are certainly gray areas in all discipline cases. The state needs to make sure that the local jurisdictions have the flexibility that they need when it comes to dealing with student suspensions.
Obviously the state and the senator have the same idea in mind: keeping the kids in school whenever possible and making sure they continue with their schoolwork. That’s a worthy goal, but school systems must make sure that the students who break the rules are not allowed to continue to disrupt the education process of other students if they are kept in school.