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State School Board Considers Changes To Zero Tolerance Policy

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Gigi Barnett anchors the Weekend Morning Edition with Meteorologist...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Broad changes to the state’s zero tolerance policy in schools may be on the way. It’s a change board members have considered for more than three years.

Gigi Barnett explains some parents fear it’s too lenient.

Back in 2011, 15-year-old Nick Stuban committed suicide shortly after Woodson High school leaders suspended him. He had purchased a legal drug on campus and the Fairfax, Va. school had a zero tolerance policy.

Two years ago, Talbot County school leaders suspended two lacrosse players for packing penknives and lighters in their bags, items needed to fix their sticks.

The boys had never been in trouble before, but soon after their suspension, they faced criminal charges.

Those are just two cases causing state school board members to consider broad changes to the student code of conduct. For instance, a student caught bullying other children gets a 10-day suspension under the current code. If the new policy is approved, the student could be forced to write an apology letter or go to mediation with the victim.

If a student brings drugs on campus, they’re currently slapped with a 10-day suspension. The proposed code calls for community service or in-school suspension.

The school board says this proposed plan will keep students in class. Some parents fear it will make schools less safe.

“I would have problems sending my son to school in an environment that wasn’t safe. That’s my number one job as a parent,” said Devon Rothschild.

Parents like Rothschild have written to the state school board about the changes. She says the proposed code strips the discipline away from local school leaders.

“They know our staff, they know our students. It would be a real shame to take that control away from the Board of Education,” Rothschild said.

WJZ reached out to the state school board about the proposed changes. The school board says they don’t comment about policy that hasn’t been approved.

State school board members will take up the issue again in December.

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