The following item was discussed by the Howard County Board of Education at its Sept. 13 meeting. For more information, call 992-0500.

PENALTIES PROPOSED FOR DISCRIMINATION -- The board scheduled an Oct. 11 public hearing on a proposal to adopt a tougher human relations policy that would allow school officials to fire teachers or school staff members found to have discriminated against students.

The proposed policy, drawn up by a committee of citizens and school staff, also would permit school officials to reprimand or suspend students or staff members found guilty of insensitive or degrading behavior toward others.

The committe did not give examples of what it thinks should be considered degrading or discriminatory behavior, but said that "verbal and nonverbal behavior which offend or degrade students or staff or communicate messages which impair their ability to achieve the maximum of their academic or professional potential" should be considered misconduct under a new policy.

Alleged offenses would be reported to school supervisors and the school system's director of human relations.

School Superintendent Michael Hickey said school officials want to toughen the schools' existing human relations policy -- enacted in 1980 -- because they are concerned about growing "insensitivity" toward others in society as well as local schools. Hickey said there have been instances of racial, religious and ethnic insensitivity between different students and between staffers and students in county schools. He gave no examples.

According to a report on the proposal, the tougher policy would "promote an environment which respects the worth and dignity of all students, staff and parents and which is free of bias, discrimination and insensitivity."

The board is scheduled to vote on whether to adopt the new policy on Oct. 25.