The Montgomery County Board of Education moved last night to tighten school discipline by reducing from 10 to five the number of unexcused class absences allowed students each semester.

The 4-to-3 vote on board member Joseph Barse's resolution followed an hour's debate in which the board's nonvoting student member argued that the furor over the measure "will make the drug raids last fall look like a cakewalk." The drug crackdown, in which several hundred arrests were made, generated a number of student protests.

Previously, high school students have been allowed to skip 10 classes per semester without penalty. The resolution by Barse, who claims to be "on the warpath" against unruly student behaviour, would result in grade reductions after the third unexcused absence and a total loss of course credit after the fifth absence.

Last night's action came during the board's revision of the system's senior high policy, which will be due for final action following a public hearing in October.

Conservative board members Marian Greenblatt, Eleanor Zappone and Carol Wallace joined Barse in supporting the measure, while Blair Ewing, Elizabeth Spencer and Daryl Shaw voted against.

Jonathan Paul, the board's student member, who made the remark about last fall's drug raids, was particularly annoyed by the vote. "Albert Einstein had to leave a Prussian school system in order to learn," he said. "If he had to attend Montgomery County schools, oh God."

Spencer, referring to recent out of-town board member business trips, said some members' children would lose course credit under the new measure because they were absent five days from school when they accompanied their parents.

Wallace, however, argued that her experience in college was revelant to today's high school student. "I was only allowed three absences," she said. "If I was absent three times, I lost credit."

In other action, the board confirmed the hiring of Harold V. Webb, an Evanston, Ill., consultant who will head the board's search for a new superintendent to replace Charles M. Bernardo, who will be paid $11,500 and the board set aside $5,000 for travel expenses members will incur during the search.