Bill introduced to prevent schools from punishing children over childish things

school-disciplineBy Jennifer Allard

EASTON-In light of recent headlines highlighting more incidents of administrators removing students from school for seemingly harmless acts of childish imagination, state Sen. J. B. Jennings, R-7-Baltimore and Harford counties, said he thought the time was right to introduce a bill he hopes will put a dent in “zero tolerance” discipline policies in Maryland public schools.

“We really need to reevaluate how kids are punished,” he said in an interview with The Star Democrat Friday.

Jennings put Senate Bill 1058 together and introduced it Thursday. From kids getting kicked out of school for playing games with fingers pointed like guns on the Eastern Shore, to chewing their breakfast pastry into “gun-like” shapes in Baltimore, Jennings said 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 called in his press release 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, stated Jennings. The bill includes a counseling and disciplinary protocol for violations by school administrators.

According to Jennings, another of the bill’s provisions makes it impossible for minor incidents, such as those in the recent news, from being entered into the students’ permanent academic record, unless it involves an upper-school student intent on repeatedly violating school policies with regards to firearms and/or violence.

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