It just doesnít make sense: Students misbehave in school and are, in a sense, rewarded with suspension — essentially sent home to take a break from their education, often with no supervision during the day.
State Sen. James C. Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) of College Park sees the ridiculousness in such a punishment and plans to introduce legislation in the spring requiring local school systems to provide an alternative that allows suspended and expelled students to continue their education, but at a site that does not interfere with the education of others.
Rosapepe is open to allowing school systems to tailor their plans, such as having a centralized location in the county or an in-school spot, and claims his plan wouldnít drive up expenses — but thatís where his proposal gets a bit unruly itself.
Rosapepe suggests that since his plan wouldnít alter the number of students in the school system, additional resources wouldnít be needed. However, removing an educator in a school where some class sizes already range to upward of 30 students per teacher isnít ideal. If a teacher is charged with a group of 10 unruly youths, the other 20 or so well-behaved students would need to be shifted to other already-crowded classes. And, unless one teacher is removed at each grade level, an educator could be tasked with teaching a wide range of levels.
The Prince Georgeís County Education Association and Maryland State Education Association agree with the end goal of Rosapepeís proposal, but understandably raise concerns about budget limitations, especially in light of the school systemís stretched resources.
School officials also will have to address student grouping, as it may be unsafe to place students suspended for gambling in a single classroom with someone who could pose a physical risk, such as a student expelled for fighting or threatening an employee.
The Prince Georgeís County school system — which allows for expulsions and in-school and out-of-school suspensions — accounted for nearly 20,000 of the stateís 129,000 expulsions and suspensions in the 2010-11 school year. And many schools have independently implemented low-cost methods to keep students in school while providing corrective actions that may improve behavior. Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine disciplines students by requiring those who act out to muck stalls and bale hay on the weekend while remaining in school during the week; Drew Freeman Middle School in Suitland redirects studentsí energy by requiring them to take part in chess club meetings.
Rosapepeís effort is commendable. Sending misbehaving students home may do little to ensure their conduct is corrected, could result in a mischievous child getting in more trouble while sitting idle at home and would put them behind in their studies, which could cause more classroom disruption when they return.
Given the tight school budget and great needs of the school system, however, now may be a better time to analyze inexpensive methods currently in use and expand upon those yielding solid results.