Baltimore Co. schools putting into effect stiffer, more consistent discipline policy Changes include fixed periods of expulsion and checks of facilities' safety

January 12, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County schools are beginning to implement a stronger discipline policy, using a more consistent expulsion policy, an evaluation of school building safety and the assistance of two former police officers.

The changes grew out of last year's lengthy review of student behavior, says interim Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione.

"A consistent theme in all the recommendations was the need to have greater consistency throughout the school system. We have moved rapidly to respond to this need," he said yesterday at a news conference announcing initial steps schools have taken to ensure student and teacher safety.

The length of expulsions often varied, depending upon where a student went to school. Now, every student faces the same penalty. Those found intoxicated or possessing alcohol, for example, will be expelled for one full term in middle school and two full terms in high school.

"We had a situation where the expulsion [for alcohol possession] would be as short as 10 days or 12 days" in some schools, Dr. Marchione said.

Joining him at the news conference were County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and former county police Chief Cornelius J. Behan, chairman of a committee that made 100 recommendations to the schools last summer.

School administrators condensed those recommendations into 69 and then determined that more than 40 could be accomplished within a year -- many, including the consistency in expulsion terms, at no cost, the superintendent said.

"I'm honored that so much activity and interest have been given to our report," said Mr. Behan.

He heads a new committee that will advise the school system on "how well we're doing" with discipline policies, said Dr. Marchione.

The schools also have hired former state police Lt. Col. Terrence B. Sheridan as executive assistant for student safety. Among other duties, he is assessing the security of school buildings.

"A lot of them were built in the time when we were not concerned about security. A lot of them are not as safe as they were 30 years ago," he said. "One of the big issues is the lighting systems."

But, overall, administrators stressed that the county schools are not violent, though violent behavior sometimes occurs. Teachers and administrators must be trained to handle that -- and the more common disruptive behavior -- "but it's not going to occur overnight," said Mr. Sheridan.

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