Earlier this month, a young student named Josh Welch received a two-day suspension from school for biting his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.
Senator J.B. Jennings, R-7-Baltimore and Harford counties, says he thinks the time is right to introduce a bill that will curb “zero tolerance” discipline policies in Maryland public schools.
“We really need to reevaluate how kids are punished,” Jennings told the Star Democrat on Friday.
Jennings introduced Senate Bill 1058 late last week, saying that the local trend is getting worse, not better.
“These kids can’t comprehend what they are doing or the ramifications of their actions,” he said. “These suspensions are going on their permanent records and could have lasting effects on their educations.”
The bill, entitled “Education [-] The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013,” proposes what Jennings calls clear, straightforward guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable when handling matters that amount to “children being children.”
The bill describes appropriate discipline that must be adhered to during counseling students of all grade levels in any Maryland school that uses public funds.
The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013 also includes a counseling and disciplinary protocol for violations by school administrators.
Another of the bill’s provisions would make it nearly impossible for minor incidents, like the Pop Tart example, to be entered into students’ permanent record.
Jennings admits the bill has a long way to go before it gets passed.
“There will be some opposition from the school board and the teachers and this is understandable,” he said. “Educators are having to do more and more … Sometimes getting a state agency to take action means the going will be slow. If the bill doesn’t get passed, hopefully this will speed up the process of change.”
The point, Jennings said, it to make the change in the first place.
“If we think something is wrong, let’s talk about it,” he said. “If it’s truly a violent threat, let’s talk about it – but let’s use some discretion.”