Panel proposes behavior rules Student could receive five-day suspension for 'three strikes'

March 20, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A student sent to the principal's office for serious misbehavior three times in one marking period could be suspended for up to five days under rules proposed by a conduct committee.

In addition to the "three strikes, you're out" policy, the committee is recommending two others: one that would require parental notification when a student is counseled about behavior by an administrator; the other that would ban clothing that depicts drug use, sexually suggestive messages, violence and profanity.

The school board is to get its first look at the recommendations tonight in Annapolis.

The committee was charged with drafting a code to standardize rules governing behavior as part of efforts by the school system to tighten the rules for the county's 72,000 students. This school year, expulsions became the rule for possession of weapons on school grounds. And the board wants to open a 120-student high school for disruptive teen-agers next February.

To adopt the suggested code of student conduct for the coming school year, the school board will have to revise some of its policies over the next several months.

Vague discipline policies have allowed administrators to set their own rules, said committee member John J. Kurpjuweit, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

For example, some schools routinely tell parents when their children are sent to the principal's office, some do not and some do only under certain circumstances. Some principals call, others send home notes.

Mr. Kurpjuweit said teachers have complained that children who routinely misbehave are returned to class unpunished. What they want to see, he said, is "a little consistency in the discipline."

However, committee members were not united on all aspects of the recommendations. And while parents are demanding that administrators pay more attention to student discipline, not all see this proposal as the answer.

"I think suspension should be held for major offenses, egregious behavior," said Carolyn Roeding, longtime PTA activist and co-founder of Advocates for Children's Education and Safety.

She said she fears that some students would be suspended repeatedly during a marking period and expressed concern that clarification of the dress code would be open to more interpretation.

MacArthur Middle School Principal M. Jacques Smith, a committee member, said he believes that principals should have latitude in dealing with disruptive students, and that offenses need to be placed in context. For example, he said, a child could be having a bad day or going through personal problems. Or a teacher might send a student to the office for relatively minor infractions.

Most parents want to be told when children misbehave, but some high school principals prefer to let a student work though some problems without telling parents, Mr. Smith said.

"I think parents should be notified when kids are sent to the office," Mrs. Roeding said. "It's absolutely vital. How can they participate in trying to break the pattern of behavior if they are not notified of the pattern of behavior?"

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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