The new Code reflects harsher stances on cheating and bullying
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has changed the "Academic Dishonesty" and "Bullying/Harassment" sections of the 2017-2018 MCPS Student Code of Conduct in response to new data from Montgomery County Public Schools, the state of Maryland and the wider MCPS community.
According to Associate Superintendent for the Office of Family Support and Engagement, Jonathan Brice, MCPS staff revise the Code of Conduct annually using information from studies, community input, and new requirements for schools from the state of Maryland. "There is a group of individuals that come together to review student discipline data, to review referral data, and to look at changes required by the Maryland State Department of Education," Brice said.
In the 2017-2018 Student Code of Conduct, Brice and his colleagues reclassified forms of academic dishonesty such as plagiarism, forgery, cheating and sharing information contained on assessments to have consequences ranging from level one to level three instead of level one to level two. Due to this change, consequences for perpetrators now include punishments such as parent/guardian and student conferences with an administrator rather than just a teacher, in-school interventions and even in-school suspensions.
MCPS staff also added a short definition of cyberbullying. Brice explained that the collaborative group added this section to help the community understand what it means to be a cyberbully.
According to Brice, being educated on cyberbullying can help prevent it in the future. "It is about making sure that we are providing clarity to everyone in our school community so that if you are a student you understand it and if you are a teacher you also understand it, parents as well," Brice said.
Many Blair teachers, including Vickie Adamson, head of the English department, and French teacher Laura Bodin, hope that the addition will help stop viciousness that occurs between students on social media.
Adamson has witnessed cyberbullying in the Blair community and feels strongly that educating students on the harm of their actions should be a priority in schools. "I've seen students just be evil with texts and images; kids do this all the time, and they think it's funny. We need to start to teach our children because it's just not right," Adamson said.
Bodin, who taught a student last year who was being cyberbullied, explained that the addition could help fix the problem because students would clearly see that being rude and hurtful on the internet is wrong and against school policy. "Last year a student came to me and shared with me that students were writing vicious comments because of her ethnic origin. Laws reflect our values and as soon as something is written down it's like magic," Bodin said.
The heightened consequences for acts of academic dishonesty was encouraging to Bodin; she was hopeful that the severity of consequences would deter students from committing such acts but didn't think that there was anything MCPS could do to eradicate the problem completely. "The students are under unbelievable pressure to get into the university of their choice, and unfortunately, some students crack. It's not going to eradicate it completely but I must be optimistic and hope that it lowers the rate," Bodin said.
The group of school and district staff revised the document to align MCPS schools with Maryland law and to try and fix problems in the MCPS student community. Superintendent of Schools, Jack Smith, acknowledged in the document that it will continue to evolve based on input from students, parents, and the greater MCPS community. "This Student Code of Conduct is a living document, and MCPS is committed to engaging with students, parents/guardians, and our entire community in refining our disciplinary practices to reflect our core values," Smith wrote.
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