MABE places a high priority on maintaining a positive and productive relationship with the Maryland State Board of Education. The State Board plays a major role in developing the state's educational policies, adopting state regulations, and issuing legal opinions. Therefore, MABE staff and members of the MABE Board of Directors regularly attend the monthly meetings of the State Board, and MABE is engaged throughout the year in informing the State Board of the association’s positions on priority issues through testimony, correspondence, and meetings.
The Monitor is the newsletter penned by MABE staff to provide all boards with a comprehensive summary of each State Board meeting. The Monitor, and selected meeting materials, are uploaded to the MABE website following each meeting to provide local boards with timely access to the issues pending before the State Board.
For additional information, contact John Woolums, MABE's Director of Governmental Relations at (410) 841-5414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Board Approves School Discipline Regulations for Publication
At its July 23, 2013 meeting, the State Board voted unanimously to approve with amendments student discipline regulations for publication in the Maryland Register. The tentative timeline for public comment and final approval includes publication in the Maryland Register on September 20, followed by a 30-day public comment period concluding on October 30, with final approval by the State Board slated for its December 10 meeting (the State Board does not meet in November).
These regulations reflect the State Board's originally proposed comprehensive set of regulations to reform student discipline, and include provisions recommended by the School Discipline Regulations Workgroup created by the State Board in January 2012 to address concerns raised by MABE and PSSAM.
The proposed regulations include the core provisions of the State Board's original proposal, including:
- Definitions of expulsion, extended suspension, long-term suspension, and short-term suspension;
- Requirements to provide "comparable educational services" to students excluded from school;
- Timelines and conditions governing appeals;
- Make-up work requirements applying to students in short-term suspension;
- Reporting requirements for school arrests and referrals; and
- The mandate to address disproportionate and discrepant impacts of student discipline on minority and special education students.
In addition, the regulations approved for publication and comment include several new provisions, reflecting the Workgroup's recommendations and other amendments proposed and adopted by the State Board during its July 23 meeting. MABE is pleased with the following changes adopted to the preamble statement of purpose which remove the reference to a “rehabilitative” philosophy; and to the extension of the deadline to adopt new local policies and procedures to the 2014-2015 school year.
- The State Board agreed to replace the original preamble, or statement of purpose, with language proposed by MABE and PSSAM. The State Board had proposed to delete the statement of intent that discipline policies be "designed to maintain an environment of order and discipline necessary for effective learning"; and had proposed instead that policies "reflect a rehabilitative discipline philosophy." In addition, the original proposal would have prohibited "discipline policies that trigger automatic discipline without the use of discretion". The proposal now states that local policies and regulations shall "reflect a discipline philosophy based on the goals of fostering, teaching, and acknowledging positive behavior", and "allow for discretion in imposing discipline", among other changes.
- The State Board agreed to extend the implementation deadline for new local board policies and school system procedures to the 2014-2015 school year; and to extend the the new arrest and referral reporting requirement implementation date to the 2015-2016 school year.
MABE continues to have concerns with the original proposal to impose a 45-day deadline to decide appeals, even in cases involving hearing examiners; and the standard that extended suspensions should be limited to cases in which the student’s return “would pose an imminent threat of serious harm to other students and staff.”
New issues of concern, based on amendments to the regulations arising from the Workgroup or State Board member suggestions, include the proposal to expand the mandate to provide "appropriate educational services" to include "appropriate behavioral support services"; and the narrowing of the goal of returning a student to "a" regular academic program to "the student's" regular academic program.
MABE anticipates offering comments on the proposed regulations reflecting our support for the overarching goals and objectives of the State Board's student discipline reform initiative, and appreciation for its coordinated stakeholder process, while also identifying remaining issues of concern.
MABE Participates in Student Discipline Workgroup
In January 2013, the State Board directed State Superintendent Lowery to convene a workgroup to address several major issues of concern with the pending student discipline regulations raised by the Maryland Association of Boards of Educaiton (MABE) and Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM). This Workgroup met several times through April and May and reported its recommendations to the State Board at its June meeting. MABE's representatives on the Workgroup included Warner Sumpter (Somerset), Verjeana Jacobs (Prince George's), and Gary Bauer (Carroll).
The June presentation to the State Board included the following materials: Cover Memo, Workgroup Report, Original and Revised Proposed Regulations, and Original Regulations.
MABE letter to the Workgroup (July 3. 2013)
MABE Urges Revisions to the State Board's Proposed Student Discipline Regulations
On November 30, 2012 MABE submitted comments to the State Superintendent, Dr. Lillian Lowery, and President of the State Board of Education, Dr. Charlene Dukes, on the proposal to dramatically revise state regulations on student discipline. MABE's comments are consistent with fully supporting the State Board's intent to fortify Maryland regulations governing local student discipline policies to ensure school safety, the fair administration of student discipline, and uninterrupted student learning. MABE drafted two versions (Version I and II) of amendments for the State Board’s consideration and, in both versions, MABE supports retaining the State Board’s expansion of the purposes of local student discipline.
Therefore, MABE endorses:
- Prohibiting “zero tolerance” policies;
- Reflecting a philosophy that fosters positive behavior;
- Providing continuous education services to all suspended and expelled students; and
- Holding school systems accountable for reducing and eliminating disproportionate impacts of student discipline policies on minority students.
However, MABE submitted, as Version I, a set of amendments consistent with the belief that many of the changes proposed by the State Board in sections B through E of COMAR 13A.08.01.11 exceed the State Board’s legal authority.
MABE has been actively engaged for several years in the State Board's inquiry into the need for policy reforms relating to long-term suspended and expelled students. The State Board issued a legal opinion in October 2009, Atanya C. v. Dorchester County Board of Education, in which it expressed its concerns about the lack of educational services for students removed from the school setting due to long-term disciplinary actions. Following that decision, the State Board surveyed local school system policies and practices, convened panel presentations from educators and advocacy organizations, and issued preliminary and final reports on their findings.
The outcomes of this process to date include significant changes to the procedures used to collect student discipline data according to the Maryland Student Records Manual. In addition, the State Board is proposing comprehensive changes to state regulations to adopt new definitions, criteria and timelines pertaining to short- and long-term suspensions, extended suspensions, and expulsions. The proposed regulations would also require the monitoring and reduction of any disproportionate or discrepant impact of discipline decisions on minority or special education students.
MABE has written to State Board President, Dr. Charlene Dukes, and State Superintendent, Dr. Lillian Lowery, to request that they reconsider and revise the proposed regulations to reflect the input of local school systems gained through a true dialogue with local educators and policy makers to consider ways that the discipline process can be improved without jeopardizing the education and the safety of the vast majority of students and the dedicated professionals that serve them.
The following materials are presented in reverse chronological order:
- MABE Letter to State Superintendent Lillian Lowery and State Board of Education President Charlene Dukes to urge the reconsideration and major revisions to the proposed changes to the regulations and procedures applying to student suspensions and expulsions (September 20, 2012). This letter encloses MABE's previous correspondence and comments from 2010, 2011, and 2012.
- State Board Approved Regulations for Publication and Public Comment (Approved for publication on July 24, 2012; publication in the Maryland Register is expected in October, 2012)
- State Board Final Report on Student Discipline (Approved on July 24, 2012)
- Additional Materials
MABE Raises Concerns with Recent State Board Opinions
At the February 27, 2012, meeting of the Maryland State Board of Education, Stephen C. Bounds, Director of Policy and Legal Services for MABE, participating in public comment, requested guidance on appeals for local boards of education. This request was made in light of troubling language in several recent opinions by the State Board. Mr. Bounds stated, "Local boards of education must rely on the provisions of the Annotated Code of Maryland and COMAR in exercising their quasi-judicial role in conducting appeals, and the decisions of a county board are legally considered to be final. In fact, one of the only grounds for the State Board to overturn a local decision is that Maryland law, including COMAR, was not followed." MABE's comments, and the State Board opinions of concern, are provided below.