Since each state sets its own suspension limits for reporting, the NCLB provision is inconsistent across the nation with many states ignoring it all together. The state of Maryland, however, takes it seriously with rules that are more stringent than most other states.
A “persistently dangerous” school designation means the school has a high rate of suspensions for serious offenses. These are violations of assault on another student or teacher, bringing a weapon to school, setting a fire at school, or sexual assault of any type.
The six schools designated as dangerous by the Baltimore schools are:
• Calverton, Thurgood Marshall, and Highlandtown Middle Schools — These schools have been considered dangerous by state standards for the past four years, with Highlandtown closing before the fall of 2006.
• Liberal Arts at Walbrook, Dr. Roland N. Patterson Sr. Academy, and Dr. W.E.B. Dubois High School were all added this year.
The Baltimore schools also had six such schools last year. The number of suspensions and expulsions for dangerous offenses declined at five of the six schools, with three dropping off the list for this year.
A dangerous designation is serious for any of the Baltimore schools. Parents with children attending these schools are notified of the situation and given the option to transfer their children to other schools, as long as the transfer is completed before the beginning of the next school year.
The dangerous schools provision in the No Child Left Behind Act does have some Baltimore schools educators concerned:
• First, it makes some of the Baltimore schools appear to be the most violent in the nation, though some public schools in other states that ignore the provision or set the suspension limits high are in a much worse shape.
• Second, some Baltimore schools educators question whether an entire school is being labeled for the repetitive acts of only a few students. The Baltimore schools new Academy for College and Career Exploration is one such example. This year it was given a warning and put on probation for only six incidents of suspension for a serious offense. With only 300 students, it quickly hit the state’s ceiling, while larger schools do not.
• Third, some Baltimore schools teachers have argued that designated schools become even more chaotic. With principals who are reluctant to give suspensions, the violence at school escalates, while sending the wrong message to the other students — no punishment for breaking the rules.
Other Baltimore schools educators, however, like the reporting provision. It puts a much-needed focus on improving discipline at these schools, nipping the problem in the bud — before it is beyond repair. An example is Calverton and Thurgood Marshall. Though still on the list this year, suspensions for serious offenses have dropped significantly over last year.
Designated Baltimore schools do not receive any additional funding to help with their problems; however, the Baltimore schools must present a plan to the state on its strategy to improve these school situations.
The Baltimore schools is committed to resolving the issues in these six middle and high schools. Baltimore schools administrators know that quality educational opportunities only come in a safe learning environment that is free of violence and disruption.
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Article Added on Sunday, August 20, 2006
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