In a recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, “MSDE school discipline proposal fails students,” the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline claims that, while the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) acknowledges that African American students and those with disabilities are disproportionately suspended throughout the state, their proposed solution to the State Board of Education does nothing to remedy the problem.
The Coalition, which includes OSI-Baltimore grantees Advocates for Children and Youth, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and the Disability Rights Maryland, is committed to keeping youth in school and on track to graduate by ensuring school discipline practices in Maryland schools are fair and appropriate.
MSDE’s proposal would allow schools to wait until the removal rate for minority or disabled students reached three times that of other students in the building before addressing the issue of disproportionate suspension.
A better approach, the piece continues, would be to ban — with limited exceptions — suspensions and expulsions for very young students (pre-K to second grade) in favor of more progressive discipline practices and restorative approaches to student behavior. These approaches have been shown to be more effective in addressing certain behaviors and they avoid pushing students out of school –which has been shown to increase a student’s risk of entering the juvenile justice system, creating the school-to-prison pipeline.