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New student discipline guidelines designed to reduce racial disparity

7/25/2014, 7:04 a.m.
The Maryland State Board of Education has voted unanimously to accept guidelines for the state’s student code of discipline that ...

— The Maryland State Board of Education has voted unanimously to accept guidelines for the state’s student code of discipline that can serve as a model for local school systems to use when developing their own discipline codes.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) presented the new framework for school systems to use as they review and revise their local district codes of discipline, and develop and establish new discipline-related policies.

These guidelines include behavioral expectations for all members of the community who have a direct impact on creating healthy learning environments and promoting student success. They also were designed to reduce disparities in discipline based on race and disability.

“The State Board is committed to establishing policies that lead to safe learning environments for all students, and keep more students in school and on track for graduation, while eliminating the disproportionate impact of school discipline on students of color and students with disabilities,” said State Board Vice President Dr. Mary Kay Finan, who presided over yesterday’s meeting. “It is imperative that we continue learning and make decisions that are in the best interests of students regardless of where they live, what they look like or what challenges they exhibit.”

The Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline align closely with the Maryland State Board of Education’s discipline reform efforts as laid out in their 2012 report, “School Discipline and Academic Success: Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform.” The guidelines were written in accordance with state law and the Code of Maryland Regulations. They complement and support the new state regulations, which the State Board adopted in January to keep students in school, maintain their progress toward graduation, and strengthen school safety overall.

As a model, the guidelines provide suggested roles and expectations of the broadly defined school community, and a framework for choosing appropriate and fair consequences for students. In response to the State Board’s directives, the guidelines create a structure that emphasizes discretion for decision-makers and is designed to eliminate disparities in discipline, and make consequences meaningful and appropriate.