Board adopts student policy to reduce hate-bias acts


The Board of Education last night adopted a new student conduct policy aimed at reducing the number of hate-bias incidents in county schools.

The educational and personal rights policy, which standardizes discipline for hate-bias incidents, emphasizes education rather than punishment and involves school-based human relations teams in dealing with such incidents.

"We wanted to make it clear that human relations isn't a negative," School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said of the new policy's emphasis on education.

Action on the plan was postponed two weeks ago to allow time for the schools' human relations coordinator, Jacqueline F. Brown, to revise it.

The new policy stiffens a policy that condemns hate-bias acts but does not define such acts or provide guidelines to discipline students who engage in them. The new policy takes effect Jan. 1.

The new policy describes hate-bias acts as "signal incidents," in which one person mistreats another based on race, cultural identity, national origin, religion, socio-economic status, gender, sexual preference, physical or mental disability.

Principals are required to report all "signal incidents" to the Office of Human Relations.

Under the policy, students who verbally harass, defame, intimidate or use profanity against another student or teacher or school official are required to bring their parents to a meeting with the principal and members of the human relations team. Students also will receive counseling and participate in educational programs with the team.

tTC Students who physically intimidate, threaten physical harm or act violently are suspended immediately, but also receive counseling, and are required to participate in educational activities with the team.

"I was struck by how much more positive this was," board member Karen B. Campbell said of the new policy.

Also last night, parents and members of the Howard County Education Association criticized the involuntarily transfers of five teachers to other schools during the summer. The teachers have appealed the transfers.

"You have denied these teachers the right to due process through an evidentiary hearing," said James R. Swab, president of the association, which represents teachers, administrators and educational support staff.

About 30 teachers and parents showed up during the second half of the 3 1/2 -hour meeting to support the educators, who include three popular Glenwood Middle School teachers.

Board chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig said a hearing would be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 24 if the attorney for the teachers files his briefs by today's deadline.

In another matter, the board heard results of four tests that aim to assess students' mastery of basic skills in reading, math, writing and citizenship. The tests are also used to identify areas where students need improvement and to determine if they are ready to graduate from high school.

About 98 percent of county ninth-graders passed the Maryland Functional Reading Test last year -- the highest percentage in nine years. The test measures students' ability to follow directions, locate information, use details and understand forms.

About 80 percent of county ninth-graders passed the Maryland Functional Mathematics Test, which assesses their understanding of number concepts, whole numbers, mixed numbers and fractions, decimals, measurement, use of data and problem-solving.

About 90 percent of county 10th-graders passed the Maryland Test of Citizenship Skills, which measures students' knowledge

of constitutional government, principles, rights and responsibilities, politics and political behavior.

About 94 percent of county ninth-graders passed the Maryland Writing Test, which focuses on narrative and explanatory writing.

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