After years of advocacy by the Legal Aid Justice Center and numerous other dedicated community partners, community members, and youth, we celebrate a substantial victory on the road to ending school pushout in Richmond Public Schools. Monday’s unanimous vote by the City of Richmond School Board in support of a revised Student Code of Responsible Ethics, or “SCORE,” affirms the need for a culture change regarding school disciplinary practices.
The new draft of SCORE, if implemented appropriately, should reduce the number of students being suspended out of school for minor behaviors, in line with the Virginia Board of Education’s Model Guidance for Positive and Preventative Code of Student Conduct Policy and Alternatives to Suspension. The new draft also removes mandatory reassignment to alternative education placements for children who are charged with certain legal offenses, opening the door for RPS to re-evaluate its system for alternative school placements and to develop additional policies designed to keep children in their home school.
While both of these changes are an important step in a long road to ending school pushout in RPS, there is more work to be done, including continued edits to SCORE.
RPS must ensure these changes and the philosophy underscoring them are fully communicated to principals and staff: school removal is not an effective, supportive, or restorative approach to discipline. The policy changes in the SCORE must pave the way for culture change in every school—whether virtual or in-person. We also hope the ongoing conversation about school pushout will allow RPS to implement more alternatives to exclusion, including an evidence-based restorative justice program across all schools. The current program does not invest an appropriate amount of resources, engagement, or logistical support to make a significant change in the city’s long history of school pushout.
Most important, RPS must engage authentically with the families most affected by school discipline policies as it continues to examine school pushout. As so many extraordinary RPS students have demonstrated this summer and fall, our youth can and should lead the way.
This victory is the result of tireless work by so many. We celebrate today, and will continue the work tomorrow.