Students Must Be Held Accountable For Their Actions

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Thank you, Anne Arundel County NAACP, for your advocacy and for demanding changes in our schools to help erase hate. Your frequent testimony during our Board of Education meetings, but especially during the November 20 meeting, made a difference.

I am particularly impressed by Drake Smith, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP Youth and College Division and Meade High School student, who called for students who participate in bias-motivated behavior to write a letter of apology. This letter will become part of the consequences for bias-motivated behavior, which includes completion of the Bias Motivated Behavior Program, a restorative program both students and their parent must attend for committing biased acts. An apology, he stated, goes beyond passive consequences, such as suspension, and helps to demand accountability and responsibility from students for biased acts.

I couldn’t agree more. I am proud of my colleagues for mandating that students who commit biased-motivated acts write a letter of apology. Had I not been home nursing a broken shoulder, the vote would have been 9-0 instead of 8-0. I am grateful for the members of Anne Arundel County NAACP and others who demanded this simple but important change.

If we don’t demand that students are held accountable for their actions, how will they grow into responsible adults? The lessons they learn now will stay with them into adulthood. If we don’t require students to craft an apology and directly address those who were harmed, we squander an important teaching moment. A letter of apology enhances existing procedures under the Student Code of Conduct and Bias Behavior and Language policy and will hopefully help stem bias-motivated behavior.

Mr. Smith also asked for comment from board members in response to the recent bias-motivated acts. I am heartbroken that countless students, parents, and staff that have been impacted by any biased act that has occurred in our schools or on social media by our students. Students over decades have borne repeated, possibly permanent, mental scars as a result of bias incidents in our schools. It is infuriating that at the end of 2019, we are still battling heinous, hate-filled behavior in our schools.

It is crucial to report every instance of bias-motivated behavior to school staff members who will complete and submit an electronic bias-motivated incident report form, which is automatically sent to the Office of Safe and Orderly Schools, Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement, and the appropriate regional assistant superintendent. In some cases, a bullying, harassment, or intimidation report should also be filled out.

Words are meaningless unless followed by action. We, as a community, need to continue to address racism in our schools and communities head on. Let’s continue to work together to ensure our schools are safe places to learn for all students. Keep showing up and work with me and my board colleagues to ensure that all students feel welcomed, safe and supported at our schools.

Eradicating bias-motivate behavior in our schools is a community effort. Thank you to the Anne Arundel County NAACP and others for working with us so that all students feel safe. As always, I can be reached at dschallheim@aacps.org.

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