Disciplining Md. students: full support or empty punishment?

WASHINGTON — After the principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School tried to impose a tough punishment on students caught drunk at a school event, the head of the school district has reversed it, igniting conflict among parents.

Weeks after she warned parents and students, BCC principal Donna Redmond-Jones banned six students who were drunk at their May 6 senior prom from the commencement ceremony June 1.

But, in a story first reported by Bethesda Magazine, Montgomery County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers rescinded that penalty.

He explained his action in a letter to parents that went out Friday evening — at the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

“He kind of buried the news. And I just don’t think that’s right,” said BCC parent Robert Banach.

“Larry Bowers should be removed immediately from his job and those offending students should not be allowed to participate on June 1,” Banach added.

In the Friday letter, Bowers said he still supports first-year BCC principal Redmond-Jones. But he said her blanket commencement ban policy violates district policy, which he outlined: “The exclusion from commencement ceremonies may not be included in local school policies regarding disciplinary standards and procedures.”

Bowers’ words of support for Redmond-Jones rang hollow to another parent, Jeanne Rossomme.

“Bowers’ decision is disrespectful and irresponsible. By reversing the disciplinary actions, Bowers is undermining Dr. Jones’ authority,” Rossomme wrote to fellow BCC parents.

“The clear message for them is that discipline is all bark and no bite. And the demoralizing message for Dr. Jones and her staff is that while they are charged with the responsibility to keep our kids safe, they do not have the authority or support to do what is right,” Rossomme also wrote.

WTOP left a voicemail message for the MCPS Public Information Officer Derek Turner, but it was not returned.

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