Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) officials had harsh words for a Maryland State Board of Education (MSBE) report on discipline and possible regulatory changes. The state panel’s study was discussed during the Calvert County Board of Education’s (BOE) Thursday, March 22 work session.

The local school board’s attorney, Dario Agnolutto, reported MSBE conducted the study at the direction of the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Agnolutto explained the MSDE’s report goals were to keep children in school, provide educational services to students who must be removed from a school and assure there is no discriminatory application of discipline.

“We are not out of alignment with where they [MSDE] are attempting to go with this report,” said Agnolutto, who added the issue Calvert officials have with the study is “the means by which they are going about it.”

Currently, CCPS has several discipline options, including in-school suspension, alternative education and the draconian measure of expulsion.  Agnolutto reported that MSBE wishes to change Maryland law to remove the definition of expulsion and modify the definition of “extended suspension.” That modification could add a provision to state law that would allow suspended students on school premises. The exception would be if the student being disciplined were considered a threat to safety. Agnolutto labeled that provision “vague and ambiguous.”

Other problems with the MSBE proposal include the lack of input requested from Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, the state board’s lack of authority to interpret state law, a proposed timeline for resolving disciplinary actions seen as unrealistic, additional burdens on teachers to require daily homework assignments from the disciplined students and a requirement that schools designate a “liaison” to handle communications between teachers and suspended students.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith said state officials should examine the “best practices” implemented by Maryland’s individual school systems in an effort to help those jurisdictions with major disciplinary problems, “not hit Maryland over the head with a sledgehammer.”

Two administrators, Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh and Executive Director of Administration Kimberly H. Roof, explained CCPS has several initiatives and training programs in place to aid staff in dealing with disruptive students. The actions include intervention programs that are being implemented at two high schools.<!–