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Md. Board Proposes Limiting Suspensions

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — If it isn’t a violent crime, the student stays in school. That’s just one of several recommendations from state school leaders on a quest to slash the soaring number of school suspensions.

Gigi Barnett explains the possible changes coming to the discipline code at schools statewide.

After a two-year review of a near-zero tolerance policy, state school leaders say too many students are kicked out of school for minor violations. It’s all detailed in a newly-released report and interim State School Superintendent Bernard Sadusky says it’s time to revamp the discipline code.

“There have been students who have been on what we call long-term suspension, not receiving educational services,” Sadusky said.

He says extended time out of class, especially on a 10-day suspension, is a problem.

“What the numbers tell us is that these students become the dropouts and we can’t have that,” he said.

Maryland’s number of suspensions is staggering. Last year, a little more than 67,000 students were sent home for bad behavior and an overwhelming majority of these students were minority or special-needs students.

City Springs Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore has discovered a way to stem the suspension tide. Rhonda Riccetta runs the school. In one year, her staff slashed the number of suspensions to just eight a year, all by allowing students to talk through tough issues.

“I think there are some things that suspension is warranted but it’s not warranted for every little thing,” Riccetta said.

All of Maryland’s 24 school districts have one year to create a plan to drop the number of suspensions and three years to put the plan in action.

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