The effort to reform disciplinary procedures, unveiled in January, followed nearly two years of study and deliberation on student discipline, intensified by local cases including the 2011 suicide of a 15-year-old football player, Nick Stuban, in Virginia.
Over the months, panels of educators, advocates, students and others testified. Hundreds of written comments were submitted.
Not everyone embraced the outcome. Carl Roberts, executive director of the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland, said more analysis is needed and more input from principals and administrators. “You need to take your time and thoroughly analyze the data,” he said.
Other objections were voiced in written comments from educators and parents concerned about “good students” who endure classroom disruption and may benefit by the absence of classmates who get in trouble.
The board responded in its report, saying that suspended students are at risk of dropping out — and that ensuring graduation for all “adds to the health and wealth of the state of Maryland and improves the global competitiveness of this country.”
Several Maryland advocates lauded the changes but said they hoped for efforts to provide instruction for suspended students — even online teaching or Saturday school alternatives.
Still, the requirement that suspended students be given their schoolwork will make a “huge difference” in some parts of the state, said Nicole Joseph, a lawyer with the Maryland Disability Law Center.
Particularly on racial disparities, “Maryland’s proposal is on the cutting edge,” said Judith A. Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group involved in discipline issues nationally.
With Tuesday’s vote, the discipline regulations are considered “published” but require a state review and a 30-day period for additional public comment. The board will then vote on final adoption.
The board has also asked that a best-practices work group be convened to discuss promising approaches. Said DeGraffenreidt: “We’re trying to avoid being prescriptive and build on the good work that is going on in a variety of school districts across the state.”