The Baltimore County School Board has made changes to how it disciplines students. This comes after attorneys who have been monitoring the school system said it was breaking state law.
The Baltimore County Public Schools has been kicking out kindergartners through second graders in violation of state law, according to lawyers for Disability Rights Maryland and the Public Justice Center. It’s illegal to suspend or expel those students unless they pose an imminent threat that can’t be dealt with through intervention, and the attorneys say the county’s been kicking out students who do not meet that requirement.
Also, disruptive students have been shipped out to alternative schools. Legally, that should be considered a suspension or expulsion which carries with it some protections for the student. The attorneys said Baltimore County was not doing that either.
And students with disabilities who didn’t have the in-school supports they needed were often the ones bearing the brunt of illegal suspensions or placements in alternative schools.
This week, the school board tightened its policies to bring them into compliance with state and federal law, making it much harder to suspend or expel kindergarteners through second graders and making an alternative school placement a suspension or expulsion.
Attorney Renuka Rege with the Public Justice Center told the board before the vote that they were pleased with the changes.
“We look forward to continuing to work with BCPS once the policies are passed to ensure they’re implemented both through administrative regulation and in practice so BCPS can best serve all of its students to the fullest extent,” Rege told the board.
In a statement, school board chairwoman Kathleen Causey said, “The board understands that providing a safe and secure learning environment requires that clear expectations for appropriate behavior be communicated, supports and interventions be provided and consequences for inappropriate behavior be communicated and administered equitably.”
Causey said the policy had not been reviewed by previous school boards for five years, and since then the laws had changed.
The current school board took over this past December.