I am pleased that Baltimore City schools CEO Gregory Thornton has issued a new policy directive at the start of his tenure requiring principals to consult with the central office before suspending pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students ("City seeks to curb pre-K and kindergarten suspensions," July 9).
By doing this, the superintendent is setting a tone that many incoming school heads usually do not set just days after taking the helm.
I agree that principals and teachers need to find alternative methods for disciplining students. Recent data show that out-of-school suspension is seldom effective and should only be used as a last resort.
However, I have mixed feelings regarding whether or not "in-school" suspensions are effective. Although in-school suspensions are alternative methods for disciplining students, the students are not receiving or grasping the teacher's lessons while out of the classroom. Should a student stay in class? Ultimately that decision is up to the teacher. But the student should be in school every day, receiving some education.
As a former school board member and recent graduate of our city school system, I can attest that students are often suspended not necessarily because they are a safety threat, but because their behavior in class is disruptive.
As a student member on the board, I met with student support staff regarding pre-K and kindergarten suspensions and was told the new policy only requires principals to contact the central office when seeking a long-term suspension, regardless of which grade the student was enrolled in. This new policy is showing the progress our district is making and reflects our schools' aspirations to have as many students as possible in school every day.
I think that Mr. Thornton brings a necessary balance to creating this system policy. This decision and many other policy decisions he will make will be directly related to his years as a classroom teacher where he worked his way up through the ranks.
Cody L. Dorsey, Baltimore
The writer is a former student commissioner on the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.-
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