HB257/SB729: A Commonsense Approach that Relies on Principals’ Professional Expertise
February 24, 2020
February 24, 2020
Contact: John O’Neil, VEA Communications, at 804-775-8316
HB257/SB729, supported by the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia School Boards Association, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Legal Aid Justice Center, gives school officials a tool to manage certain disciplinary infractions without mandatory reporting to law enforcement.
With the advent of “zero-tolerance” approaches to disciplinary infractions, Virginia principals are currently obligated to report even low-level incidents to law enforcement. Professional judgement and skills of these principals are ignored and, as a result, some students, especially minority students, begin a path down the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Current Virginia law also does not allow for considering students’ age or disability status when requiring certain behaviors to be reported to law enforcement. Virginia has no minimum age of criminal responsibility, so even very young elementary students are subject to the current mandate, with no opportunity for school officials to consider such mitigating factors. Similarly, school officials are currently not able to consider context in deciding how students with disabilities that may manifest in certain behaviors are appropriately addressed. HB257/SB729 would allow for more thoughtful analysis before a decision is made on involving law enforcement.
HB257/SB729 still requires that all serious incidents are reported to law enforcement and does not prevent even low-level offenses from being so reported. It also still requires that school administrators inform parents of all incidents directed toward their children. By bringing some discretion back to school officials, these bills would thereby allow input from those parents to help guide some of the decision-making of how to proceed.
Contrary to inflammatory and false statements made about HB257/S 729, this legislation maintains our safe schools while permitting school principals to use their discretion on low-level incidents when conditions warrant.
“This legislation is about removing the zero tolerance policies that push too many students into the criminal justice system, particularly our minority students,” said VEA President Jim Livingston. “It’s time we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to reporting and tap into the experience and expertise of our front-line school principals.”
Statement made by the Virginia Education Association, Virginia School Boards Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, and Legal Aid Justice Center.