- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Nov. 23 article “Boy suspended 10 days for buying knife at school” is probably a good example of why the Maryland State Board of Education is changing the zero-tolerance policy toward suspensions. However, students know that no weapons of any type are tolerated on school property. And yes, any knife can be used as a weapon. I doubt this student had any intention to cause anyone any harm. However, when you possess, purchase or sell a weapon on school property, I suspect you’ll be suspended for it.
Weapons of any type on school property should never be tolerated and should be dealt with severely. Students should have their handbook and be familiar with the contents. They should be quite familiar that a knife on school property isn’t something that is an accepted practice. Selling or purchasing weapons on school property, regardless of the intent, certainly increases the severity of the issue.
Ironically, independent from this incident is the Maryland State Board of Education’s intent to eliminate zero-tolerance policies with automatic consequences. The intention of the new policies are to cut back on suspensions, keep students in class and create a less punitive culture. Supposedly there is a national movement to rethink how students in trouble are punished and whether too many are suspended or expelled for offenses that could be handled in other ways.
However, the suggestion to handle any of these changes is not supported by funding. This would probably be required so that disruptive students kept in the principal’s office or a separate classroom are provided the more concentrated attention that they require. The new regulations will require local school boards to adopt a rehabilitative philosophy toward discipline and teach students positive behavior. St. Mary’s County schools have already taken significant steps in this direction.
The Maryland State Board of Education action goes further than most initiatives, requiring that the state’s school systems maintain and track data to ensure that minority and special education students are not unduly affected by suspensions, expulsions and other disciplinary measures. Disparities would have to be “reduced” within a year and “eliminated” within three years. The state does not mention the consequences if this new requirement is not fulfilled. And the state does not mention whether or not this new policy could lead to reverse discrimination against non-special-needs students, or races other than African-American.
If any racial group, or special-needs students are suspended at a much higher rate than white or Asian students, the question should be asked, “What can be done to help these students to stay out of trouble?” And to do this, substantial funding will be required to address this issue. Thankfully, our state has told us that funding from the approval of the state’s expansion of gambling will increase funding for our schools. It’s nice that they will have this extra money and that we can count on the state to spend on our schools for the currently unfunded concerns they have. Now they can use this additional revenue to ensure that students who are disproportionally suspended or expelled will be provided the closer attention that they may deserve.
However, if this is more of a political mandate by the state, you will see no extra funding. The state is well aware that something of this magnitude cannot be accomplished without additional funding for the school systems. I am quite confident you will not see the funding to support the state’s initiative.
My personal concern is that a change such as this could lead to a significant increase in bullying incidents across the board in Maryland schools. I am aware that some of our school systems have already told teachers to reduce the amount of referrals to the office for disruptive students. Now, the state would like to compound this issue with this new politically correct policy.
Roy Fedders, Dameron