The greatest fear, he said, was that the state board might reach too far into local matters.
“They really are trying to strike a balance,” he said.
Experts said Maryland’s actions, if given final approval, would make the state one of the first to substantially restrict out-of-school suspensions. Connecticut requires in-school suspensions in most cases. In Massachusetts and California, legislative changes are being considered that would address concerns about fairness and missed instruction time.
“I think it reflects our most current research knowledge that there are more effective ways to improve kids’ behavior that also lead to higher achievement and higher graduation rates and that in the long term are far less costly,” says Daniel J. Losen, who recently wrote a study of suspension and racial disparities for the National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado.
In its report, the board noted that nearly 10,000 students in Maryland were suspended three or more times last school year.
Yet, the report said, research links suspension with negative outcomes, including low academic achievement and dropping out of school. In Maryland, about 8,800 students drop out each year.
The report asked: “Why would Maryland public schools issue over 95,866 out-of-school suspensions to 56,041 students in the 2010-2011 school year, the majority of which were issued for non-violent conduct?”
The proposed changes would speed up decision making in serious discipline cases, with a 10-day turnaround for rulings, so that students do not idle out of school waiting. In nonviolent cases, students would be sent back to school if the process were to drag on.