Prince George’s schools prepare for discipline reform -- Gazette.Net


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The Maryland State Board of Education approved a report that proposes an overhaul of discipline policies that aim to decrease the number of students across the state who receive out-of-school suspensions or expulsions.

Changes aim to keep more students who commit non-violent offenses in the classroom, rather than at home where they receive little or no academic instruction. In the 2010-2011 school year, according to the report, 66,955 students — about 8 percent of the total school population — were suspended or expelled. More than half of those students committed non-violent offenses, according to the report.

The regulations will likely be adopted in December, said Tony South, executive director for the board, following review by state officials and a 30-day comment period.

Karyn Lynch, chief of student services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said many of the changes the state is mandating have been in the works in the county.

“Prince George’s has been on a very similar track,” Lynch said of the discipline policy reforms. “For the last two years we’ve been reviewing our policy and we’ve reached many of the same recommendations.”

Each of the state’s 24 school systems will be required to adopt disciplinary regulations designed to keep students in school, and get rid of zero-tolerance policies that trigger automatic punishments, like possession of drugs or weapons.

The reforms also require the state superintendent to establish a School Discipline Best Practices Workgroup, which will consider training and professional development on the new policies for teachers and administrators.

The Maryland State Department of Education will also track and analyze how discipline practices affect minorities. Any school system that is determined to have a disproportionate number of minority students affected by discipline practices like out-of-school suspension will be require to eliminate the disparity in three years.

School systems will also be required to provide minimum education services to students who are out of school for disciplinary purposes. School arrests and referrals to the criminal and juvenile justice systems will also be tracked and analyzed.

Various aspects of the regulation will probably go into effect at different times, said South, with all regulations likely in affect for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

The new regulations come after two years of research on discipline in the state and its effects on student achievement.

Lynch and the Prince George’s office of student services are in the process of revising Student Code of Conduct, which will be renamed the Guide of Rights and Responsibilities and will reflect the new discipline procedures. Lynch said that school officials are still going through the state board’s report to ensure that the guide will comply with the state recommendations.

All of the reforms are intended to keep students in school, in order that they can be college and career ready.

“Maryland’s goal is to create a world class education system that prepares all students for college and career success,” the report states. “In order for students to get a world class education, they need to be in school.”

hnunn@gazette.net