In Prince George’s, discipline cases take two paths. Long-term suspensions are decided within 10 days, but cases that might lead to expulsion took about 35 school days last year, said Karyn Lynch, chief of student services.
She said the county had sped up the process, from 39 days in 2009-10, and hopes to reduce it further. Recently, three hearing officers were added.
Lynch said that data are closely tracked and that the school system is committed to keeping students in school as much as possible.
Since late August, the state Board of Education has been inviting speakers to comment on whether its ideas are workable. The discussion is to continue Tuesday, with representatives from parent and student groups.
A decision is expected within several months.
At a recent meeting, advocates lauded the proposal and contended that cases should not take so long. “We are not talking about a protracted kind of ‘CSI’ drama, where we have to take evidence and do tests,” said Jane Sundius, of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore.
Special education students are disproportionately affected by suspensions, Nicole Joseph, a lawyer with the Maryland Disability Law Center, told the board, citing the case of the 17-year-old who waited seven weeks for a hearing.
Special education students lose not only class time, but also services such as speech therapy and counseling, Joseph said. “They are suspended at a higher rate,” she said, “and they have additional needs.”
In Virginia, where the student suicide touched off months of debate, Fairfax schools spokesman Paul Regnier said the disciplinary process has been shortened and that data will be analyzed this year to pinpoint how long it now takes.