Schools to change policy on disciplinary suspension Principals will be able to oust students for up to 10 days

August 18, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A new policy in Carroll County schools will take full advantage of a state law that will let principals give longer suspensions for severe offenses.

The law, which takes effect Oct. 1 statewide, will allow a principal to suspend a student for up to 10 days. Until then, principals have the right to suspend for up to five days. For longer periods, they must make a recommendation to the superintendent, who has the final decision.

After Oct. 1, counties could still give principals discretion to suspend only for up to five days. But Carroll has chosen to take advantage of the increased discretion in the state law.

Still, most student suspensions won't be for more than five days, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education for county schools.

"Our objective is to keep students in school," McDowell said. "We don't envision most students being suspended for more than five days."

The policy and law changes will mostly apply to extended suspensions, such as those imposed for bringing a weapon to school or using one or selling drugs. In those cases, the principal currently suspends the student for five days and usually recommends that the superintendent suspend the student for another nine weeks to a year.

But having 10 days instead of five will give school officials more time to put together the paperwork and documentation needed for an extended suspension, McDowell said.

In the 1995-1996 school year, the school system received 100 requests from principals to suspend students for more than five days for a student population of 25,309. During that time, the number of suspensions was 2,449, down from the previous year's 2,596.

In some cases, students were suspended more than once. The number of students suspended in 1994-1995 was 1,442, compared with 1,398 in 1995-1996.

Carroll County schools have various in-school programs, designed to give students an alternative to suspension. The schools saw a tremendous drop in suspensions after 1988 when they offered students the option of Saturday School, for instance.

Saturday School consists of lesson plans that address the specific offense. Students have to come in for about 4 1/2 hours on a Saturday morning. Programs deal with smoking, truancy, chronic class disruption and aggression.

When the first programs for smoking and truancy began, suspensions dropped from 1,916 in 1988-1989 to 1,348 in 1989-1990.

Over the past few years, the schools added other Saturday programs, but since 1990 the number of suspensions had continued to rise until the last school year. School officials say students are becoming insubordinate at earlier ages.

When a student is having a problem with school, administrators want to avoid giving a suspension that amounts to a vacation for some, said Edwin Davis, director of pupil services for Carroll County Schools. But sometimes, he said, removing a student from school is the only option, such as when they have committed a violent act or threatened violence.

"If the kid is involved in a safety issue, you have to say the safety of the other kids outweighs that," Davis said.

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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