Priority Issue: Student Discipline


State Board Approves New Maryland 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 new Guidelines represent 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. 

MABE Conducts Statewide Seminar on the Ramifications of the New Student Discipline Regulations

On May 29, 2014, Steve Bounds, MABE's Director of Legal and Policy Services, and John Woolums, MABE's Director of Governmental Relations, presented a seminar on the contents of the student discipline regulations adopted by the State Board on January 28, 2014; and which are in effect beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. The presentation included updates on other pending state actions and recent federal guidance pertaining to student discipline.

Presentation (5/29/2014)

Federal Government Issues Dear Colleague Letter & Guidance on Student Discipline

On January 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint Dear Colleague Letter, and additional guidance and resources, "to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The Departments recognize the commitment and effort of educators across the United States to provide their students with an excellent education. The Departments believe that guidance on how to identify, avoid, and remedy discriminatory discipline will assist schools in providing all students with equal educational opportunities."

Dear Colleague Letter
Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline

Link to USDE website's School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package

State Board Announces Timeline for Future Student Discipline-Related Reports

On April 22, 2014, MSDE staff, Maria Lamb and Robert Murphy, presented a brief overview of the department’s framework for future State Board actions and dissemination of technical assistance to local school systems regarding school discipline. The State Board adopted new student discipline regulations in January 2014, which will be in effect beginning in the 2014-2015 school year (COMAR 13A.08.01.11).

In the coming months the State Board intends to adopt Best Practices in Student Discipline; and the Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline, to update the guidelines last adopted in 1997. The State Board received a timeline for MSDE staff presentations of reports to the State Board on the Maryland Student Records Manual (June 23, 2014); Best Practices in Student Discipline (July 22, 2014); Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) Scale Up (July 22, 2014); and Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline (September 23, 2014). 

(MSDE Memo, Timeline, and Flowchart)

State Board Adopts Final Regulations to Reform Student Discipline Definitions, Standards, and Procedures

On January 28, 2014, the State Board of Education voted to adopt the final student discipline regulations, as published in the Maryland Register on December 13, 2013, to reform state regulations and mandate new local school system policies and regulations. 

Major changes to the current and longstanding regulations include:

  • New minimum standards for all local policies and regulations;
  • Mandate to review and revise local student discipline policies and regulations by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year;
  • New definitions of "expulsion", "extended suspension", "long-term suspension", and "short term suspension;"
  • New standards  and conditions for excluding students from school through extended suspensions or expulsions;
  • New mandates to provide excluded students with educational and behavioral support services;  
  • New 45-day timeline and deadline for hearing appeals, even if using a hearing officer;
  • New requirement for school system to share all documents and witness lists with parents/appellants but no corresponding requirement for the appellants;
  • New requirement to provide "minimum education services" to students suspended or expelled out of school, including daily classwork and assignments from each teacher that must be reviewed, corrected and returned on a weekly basis;
  • New requirement to assign a staff liaison between teachers and out of school suspended and expelled students;
  • New data reporting requirements for school arrests and referrals to law enforcement or the juvenile justice system;
  • New mandates for MSDE to develop a method to analyze whether there is a disproportionate impact on minority students, or a discrepant impact on special education students; and 
  • Based on MSDE's finding of a disproportionate or discrepant impact, the local school system must prepare and present a plan to reduce the impact within one year and eliminate it within 3 years.       

New mandated services include:

  • School systems must provide students excluded from school in expulsion (45 days or longer) or extended suspension (11 to 45 days) with "comparable educational services" and "appropriate behavioral support services."  

New procedural requirements include:

  • For students recommended by the principal to the superintendent for an extended suspension or expulsion (longer than the 10 day short-term or long-term suspensions in the principal's discretion), if the superintendent fails to make a decision by the 10th day, the student must be returned to school unless it is determined that "the student's return to school would pose an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff."
  • Expulsion is limited to circumstances in which the duration is limited to the "shortest period practicable;" and return to school prior to the completion of the expulsion would pose an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff.
  • Extended suspension is limited to circumstances in which the "the student has engaged in chronic and extreme disruption of the educational process that has created a substantial barrier to learning for other students across the school day;" the duration is limited to the "shortest period practicable"; and the student's return to school prior to the completion of the suspension period would pose an imminent threat of serious harm to other students and staff.    
MABE Submits Comments on Student Discipline Regulations on January 3, 2014

MABE submitted comments on the student discipline regulations published in the Maryland Register on December 13, 2013

MABE offered a set of comprehensive amendments in the spirit of facilitating the intended policy objectives of the State Board, while at the same time identifying several necessary corrections and clarifications to the regulations published on December 13, 2013. MABE reiterated support for 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.

The comments are substantially similar to those submitted in response to the version approved by the State Board in July of 2013. The distinctions between the two versions arose from the State Board's rescission and revision of its published regulations in order to make two changes based on amendments approved at the July 23 meeting of the State Board.  MABE Letter and Comments (January 3, 2014)

State Board Clarifies Intent of Student Discipline Regulations on December 16, 2013

On Monday, December 16, 2013, the State Board convened an expedited meeting to complete business previously scheduled for the meeting cancelled the prior week due to inclement weather. At this meeting, State Board President Dr. Charlene Dukes read a brief statement articulating the Board's intention in adopting a controversial amendment pertaining to the return of students to school following out-of-school suspensions or expulsions. The provision included in the circulated regulations and provided to the State Board for its consideration on July 23, 2013, referred to promoting "the successful return to a regular academic program", whereas the amendment adopted at the meeting revised the objective as promoting the successful return "to the student's regular academic program." This amendment garnered criticism as appearing to potentially confer a right to attend a specific academic program; a right not recognized elsewhere in Maryland statute or case law. Dr. Dukes' indicated that her statement was intended to assuage such concerns, and emphasized the State Board's intent to preserve "local control and encourage discretion and reasonableness in imposing school discipline."       

State Board Approves Student Discipline Regulations on December 10, 2013  

Following the unusual step of rescinding published regulations, the State Board approved a version accurately representing the amendments proposed and agreed to at the July 23, 2013 meeting of the Board. These regulations were published in the Maryland Register on December 13, 2013. 

State Board Approves Student Discipline Regulations for Publication on July 23, 2013

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 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 Education (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

MABE comments: MABE cover letter and proposed changes (Version I and Version II) to the State Board's approved 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: