Maryland State Board Rules BCPS Violated Law With "Arbitrary" Removal Of Student Accused Of Sexual Offense

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BALTIMORE COUNTY - The Maryland State Board of Education has ruled that Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) violated the law by banning a student accused of a sexual offense from in-person instruction.

According to the board's August 22 decision, BCPS failed to investigate whether the high school student posed an "imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff" before assigning them to the school system's Virtual Learning Program.

The case began when the student, who remains unidentified, was 13 years old and committed a sexual offense involving a family member "in a home setting" in another state. The decision states that the juvenile attended a rehabilitative program in July 2021 following a court order.

The family later attempted to enroll the student in BCPS for the 2022-2023 academic year, but a school employee informed them that the student would only be allowed to participate in the online eLearning program, according to the report.

After seeing their grades falter in the virtual setting, the family sought to enroll the student in Crossroads Center School, one of the system's alternative schools.

In January, then-BCPS Chief of Schools Michael Zarchin denied an appeal by an attorney representing the student's family. Zarchin concluded that he did not have "sufficient information to determine [the student] is not a threat to students or staff," according to the state board's findings.

The Maryland State Board criticized BCPS for not following the legal procedures required for removing a student for off-campus offenses, as stipulated in a 2022 law. The board also directed BCPS to promptly investigate the matter, conduct a hearing that includes the student's family and attorney, and report back to the board by October 15.

If the student is found not to pose a threat, BCPS must assess any negative impact on the student's education due to the "illegal removal" and determine appropriate educational remedies.

The Board of Education stated that it does "not take lightly" school safety decisions but added that BCPS needs to take an individualized approach to student removal.

The board further stated that the decision to remove the student based solely on the charges was "arbitrary and unreasonable," disagreeing with the BCPS argument that the severe nature of the offense warranted exclusion from in-person instruction.

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