From Sen. J.B. Jennings:
In the wake of several high-profile tragic events, there is a heightened level of sensitivity and awareness in our schools. This has led to countless incidents nationwide involving questionable judgment with respect to discipline issued to elementary school children by teachers and education officials. At least two incidents have occurred recently within our great State of Maryland. I believe these are overreactions by school officials.
While the motivations may be genuine, there has been little argument that suspensions for a piece of paper that looks like a “phaser gun” or a Pop-Tart that may have resembled some kind of firearm are overreactions when put in the youthful context of a 6 to 12 year old elementary school child.
This bill entitled “The Responsible School Discipline Act of 2013”, Senate Bill 1058 sets forth clear, straightforward guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable when handling matters that amount to “children being children”. The bill prescribes an appropriate discipline that must be adhered to during counseling students of all grade levels in any Maryland school that uses public funds. If we wait too long, this type of reaction will become the standard response by school administrators only serving to perpetuate fear amongst our young students, not to mention putting marks on permanent academic records that are neither appropriate nor warranted.
The bill includes a counseling and disciplinary protocol for violations by school administrators. Another key provision makes it impossible for minor incidents such as those in the recent news from being entered into the students’ permanent academic record, unless it involves an upper-school student intent on repeatedly violating school policies with regards to firearms and/or violence. This bill does not alter guidelines for direct acts of violent behavior whether involving firearm facsimiles or other devices.
The resolution is straightforward, easy to understand, and offers the school systems flexibility when dealing with incidents that are clearly more serious. This bill also offers immediate resolution paths for the parent(s); they may appeal expeditiously with their respective school boards.