Education Law: Expulsions, Suspensions, and Zero Tolerance

Baltimore County Public Schools are among the strictest in the state in terms of zero tolerance. The Baltimore Sun recently reported that zero tolerance policies grew out of events like the school shootings at Columbine. In my opinion, this is incorrect. Zero tolerance policies occurred much earlier in an attempt to address the racially disparate impact of more discretionary application of expulsion and suspension rules. Unfortunately that goal was not achieved as minorities are still far more likely to face expulsion or suspension. There are, however numerous ways to avoid the imposition of zero tolerance, including requests for mitigation (sometimes right at the hearing, sometimes after), appeals, and, of course, by attacking the underlying case.
In Baltimore County, for example, every case starts with the school Principal. He or she makes the initial charge and determines if the student will be charged with a Category 1, 2 or 3 offense. Category 3 is the most serious and includes allegations like drug and alcohol possession, and striking a teacher, intentionally or UNINTENTIONALLY. If the Principal believes that a more than 10 day suspension is warranted, he or she will refer the case to a Superintendent’s Designee for a hearing. My next post will discuss the hearing process. Any questions, please call me at 410 337 5545 or email at [email protected]