Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ comprehensive approach to student discipline is among ten standout models across the country that other school districts should follow, a national study has found.

Public school administrators have recently begun re-evaluating and reconsidering earlier models of disciplinary actions for students who get into trouble during the school day. “Zero tolerance” and “three strike” type policies created a response for consistent and uniform punishment for students. However, child advocates began to see unintended byproducts of those policies – punitive punishments and few second chances. Those outcomes appear to affect minority students – especially males – on a level disproportionate to their populations in schools.

AACPS’ system of progressive discipline, alternative approaches to out-of-school suspensions, and implementation of varied approaches to dealing with disciplinary issues, will be at the forefront of the National Association of State Boards of Education conference, which begins July 28 in Arlington, Va.

“We’re coming to grips with being proactive instead of the zero tolerance models that were promoted in the 1990s,” said Dr. Virginia Dolan, AACPS’ Coordinator of Behavior Interventions & Support. “It’s a real shift in mindset and philosophy from punitive to support and prevention.”

The national study, “Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis,” hails AACPS’ approach as “the use of reasonable intervention strategies before out-of-school suspension is utilized.”

“The intervention strategies are based on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS), which forms the basis of the Student Code of Conduct and includes a progressive continuum of responses to student infractions,” the study notes.

PBIS is based on a tiered framework of support for students established through positive relationships and consistent expectations. Using this framework, now in place in 80 schools and programs, AACPS has experienced a 50 percent reduction in out-of-school suspensions over the past school years.

Dolan and others believe that in-school remedies allow students a greater chance to correct behavior, become better students, and graduate with their peers.

“Students need to be in their classes ready to learn,” she said. “When students are engaged in learning, have connections to adults in the school, and there is a positive, safe and respectful climate, they will learn.”