Headlines in the Washington Post are turning the heads of some state school board members in Maryland after a student who admitted to buying a fake drug from a classmate was kicked off the football team, transferred from his school and then took his life.
Some Towson University students say such disciplinary actions in K-12 can carry dire consequences.
"Two kids just got in a fight with each other in the cafeteria, and they kicked both of them out," recalled Andrew Jarvis of Hagerstown.
"Once you kick a kid out of school, what's he supposed to do?" added Lawrence Prempeh of Silver Spring.
"He was a bit depressed, but I think he rebounded after a while,” said Waldorf’s Rebekkah Easterling of a student expelled for bringing alcohol to school, “It just took him a while to get over it. He was really upset."
But 15-year old Nick Stuban never got over his dismissal from W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County, and now some Maryland education leaders want districts to take a second look at their own policies.
"My strong sense is that zero tolerance approaches do not work," said Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso who backed away from such an approach when he arrived at a district that had ordered up 26,000 suspensions in a single year.
That-s 26,000 suspensions in a system with only 83,000 students.
"The response to every incident in the school system was just kind of knee-jerk just take the kid out of school," said Dr. Alonso.
Baltimore County’s disciplinary policy is considered one of the toughest in the state, but Student Support Services Executive Director Dale Rauenzahn says what happened to Nick Stuban couldn’t happen there.
"The look alike drug is an offense that we do look at,” said Rauenzahn, “I believe it's a Category 2, which gives the administrator and everybody complete freedom from anything from an in school suspension to in school counseling to ultimately suspension/expulsion depending on what they were doing with that."
Rauenzahn says if a student is buying a fake drug or trying to sell it would make a big difference in how they’re dealt with.
It’s a distinction that didn’t exist in Nick Stuban’s case.
State Board of Education Member Date Walsh reportedly asked Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick to have each of Maryland’s 24 districts review their policies after learning of the teen’s fate.
Picture courtesy of The Washington Post
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