Baltimore County Eases School Discipline Policy

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TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — A small change to Baltimore County’s student handbook wipes out zero tolerance for students. School leaders say the move could drop the number of student suspensions every year.

Gigi Barnett has more.

For years, Baltimore County school leaders took a tough stance on discipline. Its student code of conduct was one of the toughest in the state. That was until this week, when school leaders erased one word in the student handbook and replaced it with another.

“We changed one word from ‘shall be suspended’ to `may be suspended,'” said Baltimore County School Executive Director Dale Rauenzahn.

That change erases zero tolerance from the pages of the school handbook and gives principals more leeway when deciding what kind of discipline a student deserves.

“We’ve returned control of the building back to the principal,” Rauenzahn said.

Rauenzahn, who heads the district’s student support department, says crimes on campus–like weapons in class or drugs–will still lead to a suspension, but school leaders noticed that the small violations were adding up, kicking more students out of school.

“By lowering the suspensions, the direct result is more students in the classroom,” he said.

Last year, school leaders suspended more than 20,000 students.

Parents say the decision belongs to principals who know the students.

“I think the principal’s discretion is an excellent way to handle the situation,” said one parent.

The changes to the county’s code of conduct starts in August.

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