Home > Policies > Education Policy > Support legislation aimed at reforming school discipline policies to improve school climate and end the criminalization of children

Advocates for Children and Youth is committed to making every school in Maryland a place where young people can thrive- both academically and emotionally, and where all members of the school community feel safe and respected. Establishing statewide policies for school discipline and ensuring effective implementation in local school systems is an essential piece of Advocates for Children and Youth’s mission to give all children the chance to succeed in school. In schools across the state, the impact of current discipline policies is borne disproportionately by students of color and students with disabilities.

This is especially true in certain school districts. When this discipline involves significant police contact within the school, there are additional negative consequences that can result in the short term and long term for a student. It is crucial that school systems have guidance and policies 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.

Updates:

HB222 & HB933 – Criminal Law – Assault in the Second Degree – Educators
Advocates for Children and Youth opposes both bills, HB222 and HB933. The two identical bills, submitted separately, seek to enhance the penalty for a second degree assault on an educator to a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years, a $5,000 fine or both. Currently, a second degree assault is a misdemeanor, subject to 10 years, a $2,500 fine or both, unless the assault is (1) intentional, (2) causes physical injury, excluding minor injuries and (3) the victim of the assault is a police office engaged in the performance of their duty, a probation or parole agent engaged in the performance of their duty, or a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a rescue squad member, or any other first responder engaged in providing emergency medical care or rescue services; in which case it becomes a felony subject to 10 years, $5,000 fine or both. The bill(s) would add “Educator” to that list.  Advocates for Children and Youth believes bill risks further criminalizing students, streamlining the school to-prison-pipeline.

– February 9, 2016: The hearing on HB222 was held in the House Judiciary Committee. Rais Akbar, juvenile justice policy director, gave the only oral testimony in opposition to the bill.  To hear the testimony, click here.  Rais can be heard at time marker: 4:34:50.

Opposition to bill was based on following points:

  • Entrenches further a law enforcement approach as a means of discipline
  • Streamlines further the school-to-prison pipeline
  • Equates wrongly the role of an educator to that of first responders or law enforcement where danger is an inherent part of the job
  • Imposes the same maximum 10 year sentence, but changes from a misdemeanor to a felony leading to many severe collateral consequences

– February 22, 2016: HB222 received an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.

– February 26, 2016: The hearing for HB933 was held in Judiciary.  To read our written testimony click here.

– March 7, 2016: HB933 received an unfavorable report from Judiciary, as well.

HB198- Primary and Secondary Education – Security – School Resource Officers

Advocates for Children and Youth opposes HB198, again this year, which would require that at least one School Resource Officer (SRO) be assigned to every public school in the State and the additional expenditure would be paid by the Educational Trust Fund.   

– February 11, 2016: The hearing on HB198 was held in House Ways and Means Committee.  Advocates for Children and Youth contributed to the written testimony for both the Maryland Education Coalition (MEC) and the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline. To read it, click here.

– April 11, 2016: Session ended without a vote on this legislation.

HB1466 – Task Force to Study Restorative Justice Discipline Practices in Maryland Public Schools
Advocates for Children and Youth supports HB1466 which seeks to establish the “Task Force to Study Restorative Justice Discipline Practices in Maryland Public Schools” that would study and analyze the current disciplinary practices in Maryland public schools, investigate potential implementation of restorative practices, and examine national best practices for training of school police officers, school security officers, and school resource officers. The Task Force would also receive briefings from police training organizations about current practices and from MSDE concerning current discipline practices in schools and the collection of discipline data. The Task Force would ultimately report its final findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly by January 1, 2018.

– March 3, 2016: The hearing on HB1466 was held in the House Ways and Means Committee. Kate Rabb, Advocates for Children and Youth’s Education Policy Director testified beside the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Alonzo Washington.  To read our testimony, click here.

– March 19, 2016:  After passing the House Ways and Means Committee with amendments, the bill was sent to the House floor where is passed 130-0!

– April 5, 2016: After a brief hearing in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 30, 2016; the Committee, unfortunately, issued an unfavorable report.  Despite this year’s defeat, we will continue to encourage the adoption of restorative practices in school discipline and will work for better result on any restorative practices legislation next year!

HB836- Educational Institutions – Notice of Criminal Activity and Threats to Safety
This bill would require a school administrator to contact local law enforcement immediately upon notification from a school employee that he or she had (1) observed a student committing or expressing the intent to commit a crime of violence; (2) received information about a student committing or expressing the intent to commit a crime of violence; or (3) received information of a potential threat to the safety of students or staff.  The legislation also allows for anonymous reporting and removes any liability or disciplinary action for inaccurate information.  Advocates for Children and Youth opposes this legislation.

– February 18, 2016: The hearing was held in the House Judiciary Committee. See the written testimony we submitted here.

– March 14, 2016: HB836 received an unfavorable report from the Committee.

HB725- Handguns – School Employees – Handgun Permits and Carrying Weapons on School Property
Advocates for Children and Youth opposes HB725, which would authorize a county school board to allow school employees with a handgun permit issued in accordance with § 5-306 of the Public Safety Article of the Maryland Code to carry their handgun on school property. Advocates for Children and Youth believes that this would be a step in the wrong direction as we work to make schools safe spaces for Maryland children.

– March 15, 2016: The hearing on HB725 is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee.  Advocates for Children and Youth submitted written testimony in opposition to the legislation. To read testimony, click here.

– April 11, 2016: Session ended without a vote on this legislation.