It is imperative that schools throughout Maryland engender positive school climate and adopt discipline policies and practices that that fairly, appropriately, and equitably respond to student behaviors, rather than exclude children from school and criminalize minor incidents. Schools must implement alternatives to exclusions that focus on restorative practices, mindfulness, conflict resolution, and other appropriate responses to behavior that are designed to keep kids in school and on track to graduate. Comprehensive training on the new policies is a fundamental component of improving outcomes.
HB425/SB651 – Public Schools – Suspensions and Expulsions -PASSED!
ACY supports HB 425/SB651 banning the out-of-school suspension and expulsion of prekindergarten to second grade students. The only exception to this ban would be if they brought a gun to school, which is governed by the federal Gun Free Schools Act. In the 2015-2016 school year, 2,363 pre-K to second grade students were suspended or expelled from Maryland’s public schools. These exclusions are a missed opportunity to identify underlying issues or teach important lessons. Young students who are expelled or suspended are more likely to be suspended in later grades, experience academic failure, hold negative attitudes toward school, drop out, and get caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline. In recognition of just how unique and significant learning and development is during these years, MSDE applies its early learning standards to children from birth through age 8 and only begins high-stakes, MSA and PARCC testing in the third grade. We need these children in school and learning lessons that will make them successful in school and in life!
February 14th – The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on HB425. ACY helped to organize panels of speakers that included parents, a teacher, a pediatrician, advocates, children’s attorneys, and more. ACY submitted written testimony in support of this legislation, as did our many of our allies. Read testimony from ACY, the Maryland Education Coalition (MEC), and the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline (CRSD).
March 10th – The House Ways and Means Committee issued a report of Favorable With Amendments. The bill will be send to the House floor for a vote next week.
March 16th – The bill passed, 91-48 on the House floor after some debate and the rejection of additional amendments during Second Reader. The bill passed with the amendments passed by the Ways and Means Committee, including an exception stating that a student may be “suspended for no more than 9 days if the school administration in consultation with a school psychologist or other mental health professional determines that there is an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff that cannot be reduced or eliminated through interventions and supports.” Though this exception does contain protections, the 9-day limit is problematic for a variety of reasons (see the talking points that ACY and other advocates from the Coalition to Reform School Discipline drafted to press for a shorter limit). We hope the bill will ultimately contain more favorable language, but we are excited that the measure it progressing! Next stop is First Reading in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee!
April 8th– After the Senate Committee amended the limit any suspension to 5-days, the Senate passed the bill, sent back to the House where they agreed to the amendment and the measure reached final passage!
March 8th – A hearing was held on the bill in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
March 9th – A legislative action was sent out to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee from our supporters to support the bill. Supporters sent more than 490 letters to legislators.
March 20th – The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee passed the Senate version with a 5-day limit for suspensions where the school administration in consultation with a school psychologist or other mental health professional determines that there is an imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff that cannot be reduced or eliminated through interventions and supports. This 5-day limit is a vast improvement over the 9-day limit contained in the House version. We are hopeful this this limit will see its way to the finish line.
March 22nd – SB651 passed the Senate, 32-15 with the 5-day limit. Because the bill was not passed before the “crossover” deadline, the measure will be sent to the House Rules Committee to determine whether it will be sent to the Ways and Means Committee for review. We remain hopeful that the 5-day exception will still find its way into the bill that makes it into law!
We also received kudos for our efforts from Senator William Smith.
April 10th- On the final day of session, following the lead of its House crossfile, the Senate bill reached final passage with a 5-limit for suspensions and only in dangerous situations. What a win for our littlest learners!
HB1222 – Maryland School Discipline Reform Act
This bill requires that local school systems adopt the Maryland Guidelines for a State Code of Discipline as their code of student discipline, and further requires MSDE to Maryland collect specified discipline data, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, and English language proficiency, and disseminate the data in a spreadsheet format as part of both Maryland Report Card and Maryland Longitudinal Data System. ACY supports HB1222 because it will provide more uniformity in school discipline and require that disaggregated data be made available to the public in an effort to address disparities and improve educational outcomes for all children. Of the 42,428 suspensions and expulsions in grades K-12 last year, 61% were of Black/African-American students, even though they only account for 34% of the whole student population. Meanwhile, 24% of the total in-school and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions were students with disabilities, even though they are just under 12% of the student population. The rate of suspension also varies by county; in Somerset County, 19% of students were suspended, while in Garrett County just over 2% of students were suspended. A spreadsheet format for data, proposed in this legislation, will allow for more in-depth, accurate analysis than the current static PDF provided by MSDE, to get a better why the numbers vary so significantly among certain groups of students and in particular locations. The passage of this legislation will help to ensure that school discipline is fair, equitable, and appropriate across the State.
February 28th – A hearing was held on this bill in the House Ways and Means Committee, ACY and the UMD’S Maryland Equity Project testified alongside the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Alonzo Washington of Prince George’s County.
April 10th – This ambitious bill didn’t make it out of committee this year. We are hopeful that the work of the Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices will shine a light on this important topic and prompt further action in the coming years!
HB1287 – Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices – PASSED!
This legislation is new version of last year’s proposed Restorative Practices Task Force (HB1466). This bill establishes the Commission on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices, which would be staffed by the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland School of Law. The Commission, which brings together State officials and administrators with practitioners of restorative practices, educators involved in the work, direct youth service providers, policy advocates, and youth themselves, is charged investigating potential implementation options for incorporating restorative practices in relation to both discipline and school climate, documenting the relationships between student discipline records and involvement in the criminal justice system, and examining national best practices for training of school personnel, and parent engagement, in order to develop a statewide discipline framework redesigning discipline practices through the use of restorative practices. The Commission will serve an important role in addressing the inconsistency of discipline practices among school systems, the disproportionate impact of discipline on some groups of students, and the school-to-prison pipeline, while providing additional options to teachers and improving education and life outcomes for our students. Last year’s Task Force legislation passed unianimously in the House before receiving an unfavorable report in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. We are hopeful that this year’s legislation will find success in both Houses.
March 3rd – A hearing was held on this legislation in the House Ways and Means Committee.
March 18th – The bill passed the House floor unanimously, after a unanimous vote in Committee. The bill will now move to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.
March 29th – A brief hearing was held in the Senate Committee, where the bill’s sponsor Delegate Alonzo Washington asked for a Favorable Report. Hopefully, the Senate Committee will vote favorably on the measure this year.
March 30th – A legislative alert was sent out to supporters to encourage legislators to support the bill. More than 180 letters were sent to legislators.
April 10th – On the final day of session, the Senate passed the bill with an amendment to add the valuable voice of the PTA to the Commission, the House agreed and the bill reached final passage!