December 17, 2017

Priority Issue: Student Discipline

 
General Assembly Enacts Bill to Limit Out-of-School Suspensions of PreK-2 Students

"Ban" on Suspensions & Expulsions in Prekindergarten through Grade 2 (HB 425/SB 651) (Del. Lierman/Sen. Smith)

This bill prohibits a child enrolled in a public prekindergarten program through second grade from being suspended or expelled from school, subject to exceptions. The bill allows a student in the specified grades to be expelled if required by federal law. It also allows a student to be suspended for up to five school days if the school administration, in consultation with a school psychologist or other mental health professional, determines that there is an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff that cannot be reduced or eliminated through interventions and supports.

The bill specifies the intervention and support that must be provided to students who are suspended from prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, or second grade and to any other students in those grades who are disruptive or commit an act that would otherwise be grounds for suspension. Students in Baltimore City who are affected by the bill may not be transferred to the Alternative Learning Center for specified offenses. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) must adopt regulations by May 1, 2018, to implement the bill’s provisions. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017.

MABE supported this bill with amendments to limit the scope of the bill and modify the conditions under which students may be suspended. Ultimately the requested amendments were partially accepted, allowing for suspensions of up to 5 days in limited circumstances, but continuing to apply the general ban to grades prekindergarten through grade 2. (MABE Testimony)

Other Student Discipline Legislation Enacted in 2017

Commission on the School-To-Prison Pipeline & Restorative Practices (HB 1287) (Del. A. Washington)

This bill establishes the Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices, staffed by the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland School of Law. Members of the commission are not entitled to compensation but may be reimbursed for their expenses. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) must brief the commission on specific school discipline topics. The commission must report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by January 1, 2019. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017, and terminates June 30, 2019.

From 2009 to 2014, the State Board of Education engaged in a comprehensive review and reform of Maryland’s student discipline regulations and guidelines. MABE supported the State Board’s initiative to require local boards of education to reform their student discipline policies to: prohibit “zero tolerance” policies; reflect a philosophy that fosters positive behavior; provide continuous education services to all suspended and expelled students; and hold school systems accountable for reducing and eliminating disproportionate impacts of student discipline policies on minority students. MABE is represented on the commission by the MABE President or their designee.

Backgound: State Regulations & State Board Approved Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline

On July 22, 2014 the State Board of Education approved new Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline which includes new:

  • Philosophical Principles;

  • Expectations for Staff, Students, Parents and Community Members;

  • Descriptions of Types of Responses to Student Behavior; and

  • Examples of Behaviors and Responses within 5 Levels of Progressive Discipline.

The Guidelines represented a significant revision of the report approved by the State Board in 1997, which immediately following the passage of legislation in 1996. The guidelines are the work product of a stakeholder group co-chaired by MSDE staff and a representative from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, a non-profit advocacy organization.  This group developed updates to the previous materials, including the philosophical principals and expectations for all community members, but also developed for the first time a framework for describing appropriate levels of progressive disciplinary responses for separate types of student behavior.  

The impetus for the revised guidelines arose from the State Board’s multi-faceted initiative to promote a school discipline philosophy focused on keeping students in school. The guidelines are written in accordance with the State Board’s July 2012 report entitled School Discipline and Academic Success: Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform. Following this report in 2012, the State Board developed and adopted new student discipline regulations in January 2014, which are in effect beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.  

The guidelines reflect the reforms included in the recently adopted regulations, including the new definitions for suspension and expulsion, the conditions which must be met to impose out-of-school discipline, and the educational supports which must be provided to disciplined students. 

MABE greatly appreciates the broadly inclusive stakeholder process established to develop the guidelines, and the emphasis at the time of the State Board's approval that these are guidelines intended to inform the work of local boards of education as they revise local student discipline policies and procedures, but that they are not binding in terms of the specific responses to student behaviors described in the report. 

Click here for more information on Student Discipline Reform


For more information, contact John R. Woolums, Esq., MABE's Director of Governmental Relations, at jwoolums@mabe.org or 410-841-5414.