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Maryland School Discipline Analysis Shows Racial Disparities

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An analysis of three years of Maryland school discipline data released today paints a clearer picture of the discipline disparities that motivated some to push for a recent policy change in the state.

Researchers from the Institute of Education Sciences' Mid-Atlantic Regional Education Laboratory, working in partnership with the state's department of education to analyze data from the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 school years, found that "in all 24 Maryland school systems, black students received out-of-school suspension or expulsion at more than twice the rate of white students."

The report also showed higher rates of classroom removal for special education students, and researchers found that black students had higher rates of out-of-school suspension or expulsion than did Hispanic or white students. Says the report:

"These disparities are a concern because exclusionary discipline has been linked to poor academic achievement, grade retention, recurrent misbehavior, dropout, juvenile delinquency, and other undesirable outcomes."

Motivated in part by these trends, the state recently adopted a new rule that requires districts to adopt new policies by the 2014-15 school year that:

"(1) reflect a discipline philosophy based on the goals of fostering, teaching, and acknowledging positive behavior; (2) [Are] designed to keep students connected to school so that they may graduate college and career ready; (3) describe the conduct that may lead to in-school and out-of-school suspension or expulsion; (4) allow for discretion in imposing discipline; (5) address the ways the educational and counseling needs of suspended students will be met; and (6) explain why and how long-term suspensions or expulsions are last-resort options."

Under the new Maryland rule, schools with disciplinary procedures that the state department of education finds have a "disproportionate impact on minority students or a discrepant impact on special education students" will be required to create a plan "to reduce the impact within one year and eliminate it within three years."

The change isn't popular with everyone. In February, a state lawmaker filed two bills that would give districts the ability to opt out of the new rule.

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