Priority Issue: Student Discipline

10 State Attorneys General Urge Sec. DeVos and Attorney General Sessions Not to Rescind Obama Admin. Student Discipline Guidance  

On August 24, 2018 the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington, wrote a letter to express their support for the ED-DOJ School Discipline Guidance Package (“Guidance”) issued in 2014 and to urge Sec. DeVos and Attorney General Sessions not to rescind it.

Student Discipline Regulations (COMAR 13A.08.01.06)

On August 28, 2018 the State Board granted final approval for this regulation, which came before the State Board in December. School systems requested clarification on the phrase “not more than 5 school days” and its meaning. The language in the regulation was revised to state that a student could be suspended for up to “five school days per incident” if there was an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff that could not be reduced or eliminated through interventions and supports. These regulations were developed in response to legislation (Senate Bill 651 (2017 Md. Laws, Chap. 843)) which was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2017. This bill prohibits a child enrolled in a public prekindergarten program, as defined by the bill, kindergarten, first or second grade from being suspended or expelled from school, subject to exceptions.

Cover Memo and Regulations





2019 Student Discipline Legislation

HB 725 – Public Schools – Student Discipline – Restorative Approaches – This bill requires local school board regulations related to discipline to provide for restorative approaches and state that the primary purpose of any disciplinary measure is rehabilitative, restorative, and educational. The bill defines “restorative approaches” as a relationship-focused student discipline model that (1) is primarily proactive and preventative; (2) emphasizes building strong relationships and setting clear behavioral expectations that contribute to the school community well-being; (3) in response to behavior that violates clear behavioral expectations, focuses on accountability for any harm done by the problem behavior; and (4) addresses ways to repair the relationships affected by the problem behavior with the voluntary participation of an individual who was harmed. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019.

MABE opposed this bill as introduced because it would have limited school administrator and school system decision making regarding the suspension and expulsion of students based on restrictive conditions regarding the provision of restorative approaches. (MABE Position: Oppose) As amended, MABE believes the bill is consistent with the broader policy goal that student discipline policies reflect a philosophy that fosters positive behavior, and is aligned with longstanding state regulations. At the same time, MABE fully anticipates the need for additional funding to implement restorative approaches with fidelity. Therefore, MABE also supported passage of House Bill 1229 to establish a grant program to provide funds to local school systems for training on, and implementation and evaluation of, restorative approaches. HB 1229 did not pass; HB 725 states that MSDE must “on request, provide technical assistance and training to county boards regarding the use of restorative approaches.”

SB 103/HB 181– Criminal Law – Electronic Harassment and Bullying (Grace’s Law 2.0) – This bill expands the existing “cyber bullying” statute by prohibiting a person from maliciously engaging in electronic communication with intent to intimidate or harass, and cause physical injury or serious emotional distress. The bill defines “electronic communication”, “electronic conduct”, and “social media application”. The bill expands the law, commonly known as Grace’s Law, to prohibit cyber bullying with the intent to induce a minor to commit suicide, which is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a $10,000 maximum fine. (MABE Position: No Position)

HB 704 – Maryland Longitudinal Data System – Student Data and Governing Board – This bill adds juvenile delinquency records and discipline records to the types of data that are collected and analyzed by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) Center; under current law these records are specifically excluded. To that end, the bill adds the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) to the entities required to provide data sets to the MLDS and adds the Secretary of Juvenile Services to the Governing Board of the MLDS Center. The bill also makes changes to the definition of “student data” and the types of data that entities are required to transfer to the MLDS Center. The bill takes effect October 1, 2019. (MABE Position: No Position)

2018 Student Discipline Legislation 

Education – School Discipline – Data Collection (HB 1254) – This bill requires the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to (1) disaggregate and report data on student discipline in specified manners and (2) collect and report data on alternative school discipline practices. The bill takes effect July 1, 2018.  MABE opposed this bill as introduced because it would have mandated that each local board of education adopt the Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline (Guidelines) as their code of student discipline. MABE did not oppose the bill as amended.

Bullying, Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Intimidation – School Response (SB 725) – This bill authorizes a school principal to report to law enforcement agencies if, after an investigation is completed, the school principal has reason to believe that a student has engaged in conduct that constitutes an offense under the criminal statutes for first-degree assault, second-degree assault, misuse of electronic communication or interactive computer service, or revenge porn. The bill also alters the requirements for mandatory reporting of harassment or intimidation against public school students to include behavior that is sexual in nature. MSDE’s Model Policy to Address Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation must include model procedures for providing notice of an act of bullying, harassment, or intimidation to a parent or guardian of the alleged victim within three business days and the parent of the alleged perpetrator within five business days after the date the act is reported.  MABE supported this bill because it will enhance the reporting, investigation, and responses to cases of harassment or intimidation against public school students, including behavior that is sexual in nature. In addition, this legislation should result in heightened awareness among students and school administrators about the serious consequences of bullying. (MABE Testimony)

2017 Student Discipline Legislation 

Ban” on Suspensions & Expulsions in Prekindergarten through Grade 2 

Legislation passed in 2017 to prohibit a child enrolled in a public prekindergarten program through second grade from being suspended or expelled from school, subject to limited exceptions. (HB 425/SB 651) (Del. Lierman/Sen. Smith).

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)

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

Legislation passed in 2017 to establish 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.



Reducing and Eliminating Disproportionate Impact

State Regulations have been approved to govern the identification of significant disproportionality for students receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (COMAR 13A.05.02.04) (May 22, 2018)

Reducing and Eliminating Disproportionate Impact: Technical Assistance Guide to Address Disproportionality in School Discipline MSDE Report – (June 2017)

Background: 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

Other Resources

Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention

  • Resources Grants and Policy Issues
  • Juvenile Justice Policy Unit

For more information, contact John R. Woolums, Esq., MABE’s Director of Governmental Relations, at or 410-841-5414.