LAJC Celebrates School Discipline Reform Legislation

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                         

CONTACT:
Amy Woolard
Attorney and Policy Coordinator, Legal Aid Justice Center
434-529-1846 | amy@justice4all.org

LAJC Celebrates Enactment of School Discipline Reform Legislation

Richmond, Virginia (June 1, 2018) – After a years-long effort by its JustChildren Program to stem Virginia’s school suspension crisis, the Legal Aid Justice Center celebrates the enactment of two major pieces of school discipline reform legislation, which await Governor Northam’s pen during a ceremonial bill signing this afternoon. The new laws will take effect on July 1, making Virginia one of the first states in the nation to enact statewide school discipline reform.

Senate Bill 170, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley, will dramatically curb suspensions of young students in grades pre-K through third grade by capping most suspensions of children in these grades at no more than three days. House Bill 1600, patroned by Delegate Jeff Bourne and chief co-patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell, narrows the length of most long-term suspensions to a period of 11-45 school days, down from the current span of 11-364 calendar days. Both bills passed the General Assembly with strong bipartisan votes.

“These laws are a powerful first step toward reducing school pushout and improving school climate for Virginia’s children,” said Amy Woolard, staff attorney and policy coordinator with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “We are pleased Virginia has recognized that exclusionary discipline harms students and that there is a better way. To that end, we are also grateful that the two-year budget recently passed by the General Assembly includes an additional $500,000 per year for implementing positive behavior supports in schools across the Commonwealth.”

Last fall, the Legal Aid Justice Center released a report showing that Virginia schools issued over 131,500 out-of-school suspensions to over 70,000 individual students during the 2015-16 school year, including over 17,300 short-term suspensions to children in pre-K through third grade alone. The vast majority of suspensions were issued for non-violent, relatively minor misbehavior.