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Maryland Lawmaker Wants to Allow Districts to Ignore New Discipline Rules

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A Maryland lawmaker wants to override the state's board of education by giving school districts the authority to disregard new state school discipline regulations the board approved after three years of planning and study.

Delegate Kathy Afzali authored two bills to release schools from the new requirements, with one proposal specific to Frederick County, where she is from, and the other covering the entire state, The Frederick News-Post reported.

The state board adopted the new regulations in January. Under the new regulations, districts in the state must 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."

A handful of states have adopted new rules recently that require school districts to step back from zero-tolerance policies that critics have blamed for high rates of classroom removal through suspension and expulsion. Critics contend those policies are often unfairly applied to students of certain races. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice also recently issued federal guidance on the subject.

But states that have adopted such changes, including Maryland and Massachusetts, have also faced pushback. Critics contend discipline is a local issue that should not be addressed through broad state and federal regulations and that the new rules come without the funding and resources necessary to support school climate changes.

Republican lawmakers recently voiced similar concerns about the federal guidance.

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