Last month, Maryland became one of the first states to tackle the widespread injustice of overly harsh discipline policies in our schools, adopting regulations that require an end to practices that have doubled the number of out-of-school suspensions for African-American students in the past decade.
The new regulations came just three weeks after Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. warned school districts that a continuation of the large disparities in suspension and expulsion rates constituted a possible civil rights violation and could trigger a federal investigation.
But too many schools still use severe and ineffective practices to address student misbehavior. Large numbers of students are kicked out, typically for nonviolent offenses, and suspensions have become the go-to response for even minor misbehavior, like carrying a plastic water gun to elementary school or sometimes simply for talking back. The Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A. found that the number of secondary school students suspended or expelled increased by some 40 percent between 1972-73 and 2009-10.