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Md. Schools Move Toward Banning Zero-Tolerance Policies

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- After a two-year study, state school leaders are one step closer in banning zero-tolerance discipline policies in all Maryland schools.

Gigi Barnett has the latest on the move to keep students in class.

Last year, 15-year-old Nick Stuban committed suicide. It happened shortly after he was suspended from WT Woodson High School in Fairfax. Nick purchased a legal pill on campus and school leaders sent him home. His parents blamed the suspension for Nick's death and the suicide caused a national outcry for schools to rethink their zero tolerance policies.

Maryland school leaders reworked their discipline code and Tuesday night, school leaders approved the new discipline rules.

"It's gotten too punitive and too criminal in its own orientation and not enough therapeutic and teaching and helping those kids mature," said John Farrell, part of a zero tolerance reform group.

Stuban's case wasn't the only one parents thought unfair. Last year, Talbot County school leaders suspended two lacrosse players for packing pen knives and lighters in their bags, items needed to fix their sticks. The boys had never been in trouble before but soon after their suspension, they faced criminal charges.

"To charge him for having a deadly weapon for a two-inch pocket knife is ridiculous. It's such a waste of everyone's time and energy," said Laura Dennis.

Now this week's vote to cut back on zero tolerance require school districts to review each infraction on a case-by-case basis and long-term suspensions and expulsions are a last resort.

Plus, board members say if a student is suspended, it's the school's responsibility to make sure that student can complete class assignments.

Wednesday in a statement to Eyewitness News, school leaders wrote, "No student comes to school `perfect,' academically or behaviorally. We do not throw away the imperfect or difficult students. Thus, our school discipline philosophy focuses on keeping students in school. It is that simple. It is that important."

The final vote on the new changes to the discipline code comes next month.

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