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Fenty Vetoes Council Bill on School Suspensions

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty vetoed a D.C. Council bill yesterday that would give the state superintendent of education and the State Board of Education authority to set new guidelines for school suspensions.

In a letter to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, Fenty said the Public Schools and Public Charter Schools Suspension Reform Emergency Act of 2008 improperly inserts the state education agency into the day-to-day operations of the school system.

The bill, sponsored by council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) and passed Dec. 16, would discourage suspensions for "frivolous" reasons and allow parents to pursue civil actions against school administrators for unwarranted suspensions.

The bill was a response to a series of serious disciplinary problems in schools, including Hart Middle School in Barry's ward.

Fenty (D) said that Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is revising the disciplinary rules and that although state education officials have a key role to play in developing broad standards, the bill would undermine mayoral control of the school system, which legislation established in 2007.

The bill "turns the governance structure upside down, which will only serve to defeat and dilute our shared responsibility," Fenty wrote.

Gray said through a spokesman that he will "discuss the matter internally" to determine his next step.

Yesterday's action is the latest round of scuffling between Gray and Fenty over school policies. On Monday, Gray said he was moving ahead with an independent evaluation of the school system overhaul under Rhee as provided by the 2007 school law.

Fenty named two education scholars to lead the study last year, but they were rejected by Gray as lacking sufficient independence from Rhee.

Fenty has not submitted other names to the council.

Hamil R. Harris and Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  January 8, 2009; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Mayor Fenty  
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