LAJC’s 2019 Legislative Agenda

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legal Aid Justice Center’s 2019 Legislative Agenda:

Richmond, Virginia, (January 14, 2019) –The 2019 Virginia legislative session is underway! Session began Wednesday, January 9th, as the legislature worked to organize itself for a short 45-day legislative session. The General Assembly alternates between 60-day sessions, during which it completes a full biennial budget, and 45-day “short” sessions, during which they…still do quite a bit of work on the biennial budget.
 
As with last year and for a few years to come, the legislature will complete much of its committee work and have legislative offices in the Pocahontas Building, located at 900 E. Main St in Richmond.
   
Legislators have already filed about 1,950 bills and resolutions for this 45-day session, and more are coming. LAJC staff will be working to educate policymakers and support our partners on a variety of issues. You can access our full LAJC legislative agenda here, and below you will find a brief summary of our primary priorities for this session:
 
JustChildren: Educate Every Child & Juvenile Justice
Legislation

  • Right-Size school counselor caseloads to the nationally-recommended best practice of one counselor for every 250 students.
  • Bring transparency and accountability to disciplinary alternative education through data collection and reporting, disaggregated by race and disability.
  • Decriminalize disorderly conduct for students in school setting.Ensure all School Resource Officers have appropriate training to work with students from all backgrounds.
  • Require schools and law enforcement agencies to enter into memorandums of understanding governing the use of School Resource Officers, and assure staff are trained on these plans.
  • Support efforts to raise the minimum age of eligibility that youth may be tried in adult court.

Budget Amendments:
LAJC will be supporting several budget items in Governor Northam’s introduced budget, as well as legislative budget amendments to make sure our schools are adequately funded and focused on ensuring students have access to support staff, with a priority on school counselors. In the introduced budget, Governor Northam provided funding to “right-size” school counselor caseloads and increase targeted “At-Risk Add-On” funding for economically disadvantaged students. We’ll also be supporting legislative budget amendments that seek to fulfill the Virginia Board of Education’s recommendations on fully funding Virginia schools’ Standards of Quality.

Civil Rights & Racial Justice
Legislation

  • End the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid or delinquent court debt.
  • Codify both the state’s commitment to pretrial liberty for all people and its commitment to transparent public access to the full scope of pretrial outcomes across the Commonwealth.
  • Repeal the antiquated “Interdiction” statute to prevent the unconstitutional criminalization of people who are homeless by legally labeling them as “habitual drunkards” if they buy, possess, or consume alcohol.

Immigrant Advocacy
LAJC will be working in partnership with VACOLAO, immigrant students with DACA status, and the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights to ensure that immigrant communities have equal treatment, equal opportunities, and equal representation in the Commonwealth. Priorities for this session include:

  • Driver’s permit access for all immigrant Virginians; 
  • In-state tuition access for immigrant Virginia students regardless of immigration status; and
  • Preventing the expansion of federal immigration authorities over local and state agency information.

Economic Justice
LAJC will be working in partnership with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to support efforts to reduce evictions in the Commonwealth, expand opportunities for localities to increase the availability of affordable housing, and prevent financial exploitation of low-income Virginians. At the state level, we are also members of the Campaign to Reduce Evictions.

Legislation
: See VPLC’s full legislative agenda here.

Support our legislative advocacy efforts!
You can access our Legal Aid Justice Center legislative agenda here. To get involved with our legislative advocacy, please contact us at info@justice4all.org and let us know if you’re closer to Richmond, Charlottesville, or Northern Virginia.

You can also sign up for email alerts on our website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We will be sharing advocacy materials, updates, blog posts, and calls to action as the session progresses!

Injunction Granted In License Suspension Case

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Information for individuals with suspended license can be found here:  https://www.justice4all.org/drivers-license-update/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Preliminary Injunction Granted in Driver’s License Case:
Judge finds driver’s license suspension statute likely unconstitutional and orders DMV to reinstate Plaintiffs’ licenses while litigation proceeds.

Charlottesville, Virginia, (December 21, 2018) —This afternoon, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia issued a preliminary injunction against DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb ordering him to reinstate the driver’s licenses of the three named plaintiffs in Stinnie v. Holcomb who lost their licenses automatically when they were unable to pay court costs and fines.

Judge Norman K. Moon found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in establishing that Virginia’s license suspension statute is unconstitutional, and that the plaintiffs have suffered irreparable harm as a result of its enforcement. The opinion states, “While the Court recognizes the Commonwealth’s interest in ensuring the collection of court fines and costs, these interests are not furthered by a license suspension scheme that neither considers an individual’s ability to pay nor provides him with an opportunity to be heard on the matter.”

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the Constitution and for common sense. The Court stated unequivocally that Virginia’s driver’s license suspension statute likely violates procedural due process rights,” said Angela Ciolfi, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This week, two branches of state government have weighed in against continued enforcement of this counter-productive policy, and there is strong bipartisan support for repeal in the General Assembly. It is time to end the devastating cycle of debt, unemployment, and incarceration once and for all.”

Judge Moon’s ruling comes on the heels of Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement earlier this week of his support for ending license suspension in Virginia of people too poor to pay court debt, and rulings earlier this year by two federal courts in Tennessee and Michigan declaring similar statutes unconstitutional. The ruling currently affects only the five named Plaintiffs unless and until the Court rules on Plaintiffs’ pending motion for class certification. Repeal legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Stanley will be considered by the General Assembly during the upcoming 2019 session.

Memorandum Opinion (PDF)

Order Granting Preliminary Injunction (PDF)

Overview:
Stinnie v. Holcomb is a class action lawsuit, filed by Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and McGuireWoods LLP, challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of nearly one million Virginia drivers who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines. The case was originally dismissed at the Circuit Court, but it was revived by the Fourth Circuit this summer when the appeals court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint. When LAJC filed the amended complaint, they also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would have the effect of ordering the DMV Commissioner to stop suspending driver’s licenses for non-payment of court debt while the lawsuit is pending.  On November 15th, Judge Moon took evidence and heard arguments for and against the preliminary injunction.  On December 21, Judge Moon granted the preliminary injunction finding the driver’s license suspension statute likely unconstitutional and ordering the DMV Commissioner to reinstate Plaintiffs’ licenses while litigation proceeds. The Court also rejected the Commissioner’s arguments that the federal court lacked jurisdiction.

National and Statewide Implications:

  • Virginia is one of 43 states that suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment of court costs and fines related to traffic and/or criminal offenses. Since Stinnie was originally filed in 2016, six more statewide lawsuits have been filed (or almost filed) in California, Tennessee, Michigan, Montana, Mississippi (settled pre-filing), and North Carolina, and advocates have won legislative reforms in many states, including California and, most recently, D.C.
  • A federal judge recently issued a statewide injunction against a similar enforcement scheme in Tennessee.
  • This ruling will not impact the nearly one million Virginia drivers who, as of December 2017, currently have at least one suspension on their license for failure to pay, including approximately 650,000 people whose licenses are suspended solely for not paying court costs and fines. 
  • For many drivers, a license suspension means giving up their only mode of transportation to work, forcing them to choose between losing their jobs and risking jail time for driving on a suspended license. These long-suffering Virginia drivers will continue to endure a never-ending cycle of debt and incarceration, so long as the law forces them to choose between driving illegally and forsaking the needs of their families. 

To read more about the lawsuit, or to download the briefs, go to http://www.justice4all.org/drive.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, workers’ rights, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

LAJC Condemns Recs to Pull Discipline Guidance

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rachael Deane|
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-521-7304 | rachael@justice4all.org

LAJC Condemns Federal Recommendations to Rescind Student Civil Rights Protections

Richmond, Virginia (December 19, 2018) – Recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety to rescind important school discipline guidance will make schools less safe for Virginia’s children. The Commission’s final report, released yesterday, recommends rescission of the 2014 “Rethink School Discipline” federal guidance package, which instructed school divisions on how to identify and avoid discriminatory discipline practices. The guidance emphasized the duty of every school district to create and maintain safe, fair, and nurturing schools for all students without relying upon harsh, overly broad disciplinary practices that push children out of school and into the criminal justice system.

“Years of research indicate that overly punitive school discipline policies can have a disproportionately harmful effect on students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of LAJC’s JustChildren Program. “Yesterday’s recommendation is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to restrict student civil rights, but make no mistake: our public schools still have a legal and moral obligation to educate all children, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, gender, or disability.”

In October, Legal Aid Justice Center released a report, Suspended Progress 2018, which documented astonishing racial disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline in Virginia’s public schools during the 2016-17 school year. The report showed that Virginia public schools issued over 127,800 out-of-school suspensions to over 73,000 individual students and that Black students were 4.5 times more likely to be suspended than Hispanic and white students.

In 2018, Virginia lawmakers have begun to make significant bipartisan progress on school discipline and school safety. In June, Governor Northam signed two new school discipline laws that limit the use of exclusionary discipline in Virginia’s K-12 schools. In November, the House Select Committee on School Safety issued a comprehensive set of school safety recommendations that emphasize a holistic approach to student safety, including examining the role of school counselors in keeping all students safe. And last week, Governor Northam announced a budget amendment that would add more counselors to Virginia’s schools.

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The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, employment rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.

Follow us on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.

Celebrating School Safety Budget Amendment

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rachael Deane|
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-521-7304 | rachael@justice4all.org

LAJC Celebrates Governor Northam’s School Safety Budget Amendment

Richmond, Virginia (December 13, 2018) – Today’s budget proposal from Governor Northam to dramatically increase funding for school counselors across the Commonwealth is a huge victory for students, parents, and educators!  The Governor is proposing to increase funding for school counselors by $36 million next year as part of a three-year plan to reduce caseloads from the curent ratio of one counselor per 425 students to the nationally-recognized best practice of one counselor per 250 students.      

This policy victory is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of different players and partners—most obviously the amazing community mobilizing by teachers in recent months—but this proposal would not have happened without LAJC’s advocacy. We helped to bring this idea to the table, connecting mental health and school safety though direct advocacy with lawmakers, including many in-person meetings over the last six months, a report we released with the the Commonwealth Institute, and through public relations.
   
Of course, this is just a proposal until it is passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. LAJC and our allies will be working hard over the next few months to help make that happen!
 

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The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, employment rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.

Follow us on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.

Response to RTD Editorial on Students w/ Autism

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Rachael Deane
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-521-7304 | rachael@justice4all.org

Legal Aid Justice Center Responds to Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial on Students with Autism

Richmond, Virginia (November 30, 2018) – In response to the recent Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial on children with autism, the Legal Aid Justice Center makes the following statement:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial, “Bring more light to decisions about autism and the classroom,” evokes a much darker time in Virginia’s history: when we routinely separated children with disabilities from their families and peers and placed them in institutions. Whether they were called orphanages, state hospitals, or group homes, these facilities segregated and secluded children with disabilities, offered little education, and were breeding grounds for physical and emotional abuse. Prior to the enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) in 1975, millions of children with disabilities in the United States had no access to public education, and unsafe institutions were the norm.

Provision of a public education to children with autism is not “special treatment”—it’s the law. The IDEA and its progeny of court cases guarantee children with disabilities the right to receive a free, public education tailored to their individual needs. The IDEA requires public schools to educate children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment: to the maximum extent possible, these children must be educated alongside other children without disabilities. The law recognizes that all children benefit when they learn in an integrated, diverse environment.

Children with autism—like all children—are not a monolithic population, nor are the behaviors associated with autism categorically disruptive or indicative of the need for removal from a classroom. And the notion that classrooms are ever pristinely “free from interruption” such that students with autism or other disabilities are exacting a cost on others is a harmful myth. Children can be disruptive in classrooms for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from hunger to trauma to academic frustration to just a simple bad mood. As we noted in our Suspended Progress 2018 report, exclusionary discipline—using access to education as a form of punishment—is harmful and self-defeating. The Virginia Department of Education and many local school divisions are rightly turning to root-cause disciplinary interventions, recognizing that behavior is a symptom, and that student accountability doesn’t have to mean punishment or exclusion. They should be commended for taking this research-driven, goal-oriented direction—which does include methods such as restorative practices, an optional tool that many divisions already implement with great success.

Budgetary stress in Virginia’s public schools is not the fault of children with autism or any other child who enters the schoolhouse with unique educational needs. Instead, we have only ourselves to blame. Virginia’s schools have been strapped for cash for decades, while student needs and the Commonwealth’s performance expectations continue to increase. In 2009, the General Assembly slashed funding for school support positions by implementing an arbitrary cap on the amount of state dollars that go toward funding school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other vital positions. The Virginia Board of Education has recommended more than one billion dollars per biennium in additional funding just to meet minimum educational standards for all children, whether they come to school with disabilities or not.

Compassion and understanding are not zero-sum goals. Education is not a gift we choose to bestow upon children with autism if we decide the “tradeoffs” are worth it. And we are not mainstreaming students with disabilities by assuring their access to education in the least restrictive environment. Students with disabilities—including autism—are the mainstream, as are other children with unique educational needs—like economically disadvantaged students, English Learners, and students dealing with trauma. Every child in our schools is brimming with potential, with so much to teach one another.   

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The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, worker’s rights, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.

Follow us on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.

Announcing New Executive Director Angela Ciolfi

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:   Tim Wallace, 434-529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org

Legal Aid Justice Center Announces New Executive Director, Angela Ciolfi

Charlottesville, Virginia (November 28, 2018) – The Legal Aid Justice Center is pleased to announce that Angela Ciolfi has been selected to be its new executive director, following the departure of Mary Bauer, who served in that role from 2013 to 2018.

Ciolfi was hired after a six-month search conducted by LAJC’s Board of Directors and the hiring firm Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group LLC (NPAG). Over the hiring period, NPAG engaged over 300 sources and vetted dozens of prospects and leads. The hiring committee of the Board then interviewed six final candidates before the Board decided on Ciolfi.

“Angela is exactly who LAJC and frankly Virginia needs right now,” said LAJC board chair Jonathan Blank, a partner at McGuireWoods LLP. “She has exactly the right set of skills and experience to lead LAJC’s advocacy on behalf of the communities we serve. We looked at a wide pool of potential candidates, and Angela was the best of a very impressive field. I speak for the entire board when I say we are thrilled to know that Angela is at the helm of this vital institution at this particularly troubling time for Virginia.”

Ciolfi began working at LAJC in 2004 as a Powell Fellow, before serving as JustChildren Legal Director from 2010 to 2017 when she became Director of Litigation and Advocacy. During her tenure, Ciolfi has been a prolific and fierce advocate for justice working on and often leading many of LAJC’s signature campaigns and cases, including the Drive Down the Debt Campaign targeting Virginia’s driver’s punitive license suspension statute. She has also litigated significant cases in the Virginia Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. While leading the JustChildren Program, Ciolfi helped to secure and protect state funding for preschool and for positive behavioral supports. Her successful fight in 2012-14 to require public schools to publish suspension and expulsion data broken down by race, gender, and disability and roll back zero tolerance laws set the stage for much of LAJC’s school-to-prison pipeline work ever since. As Director of Litigation and Advocacy from 2017 to 2018, Ciolfi has worked to empower LAJC’s organizers and attorneys to take on high impact campaigns informed by and in partnership with community leaders.

Ciolfi was the recipient of the Oliver White Hill Award from the Virginia State Bar in 2003 and the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2010. Ciolfi was also named the recipient of the 2017 Virginia Legal Aid Award by the Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Committee for her work advocating for children’s rights issues throughout the Commonwealth. She is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay.

“I am honored by the trust that the Board has shown in me and deeply indebted to Mary Bauer and others for building such a powerful institution,” said Angela Ciolfi. “Every day our advocates fight to transform oppressive systems and build the power of under-resourced communities. I know that there is a lot more work for us to do in the struggle against poverty and for racial justice, but there is no fiercer group of advocates with whom to do it.”

Ciolfi will officially take the helm December 15, 2018.

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About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, worker’s rights, civil rights, immigration, healthcare, and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

Follow the Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and on Facebook.

 

Preliminary Injunction Hearing in Licenses Lawsuit

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PRESS ADVISORY                              

Contact: Tim Wallace, (434) 529-1853, twallace@justice4all.org

Preliminary Injunction Hearing in Driver’s License Case:

Judge to hear arguments for and against order to DMV to immediately stop suspending driver’s licenses of those unable to pay court fees and fines while litigation proceeds.

WHAT:                Hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction
WHEN:               November 15, 2018 at 1:30 PM
WHERE:             Charlottesville Courthouse, U.S. District Court

Overview:
Stinnie v. Holcomb is a class action lawsuit, filed by Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and McGuireWoods LLP, challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of nearly one million Virginia drivers who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines. The case was originally dismissed at the Circuit Court, but it was revived by the Fourth Circuit this summer when the appeals court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint. When LAJC filed the amended complaint, they also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would have the effect of ordering the DMV Commissioner to stop suspending driver’s licenses for non-payment of court debt while the lawsuit is pending.  At the hearing on November 15th, Judge Moon will hear arguments for and against the preliminary injunction. 

National and Statewide Implications:

  • Virginia is one of 43 states that suspend driver’s licenses for non-payment of court costs and fines related to traffic and/or criminal offenses. Since Stinnie was originally filed in 2016, six more statewide lawsuits have been filed (or almost filed) in California, Tennessee, Michigan, Montana, Mississippi (settled pre-filing), and North Carolina, and advocates have won legislative reforms in many states, including California and, most recently, D.C.
  • If plaintiffs prevail, for the duration of the litigation, which could take many months, Virginia would cease to suspend driver’s licenses of those who are unable to pay their court fees and fines. A federal judge recently issued a statewide injunction against a similar enforcement scheme in Tennessee.
  • This will not impact the nearly one million Virginia drivers who, as of December 2017, currently have at least one suspension on their license for failure to pay, including approximately 650,000 people whose licenses are suspended solely for not paying court costs and fines. 
  • For many drivers, a license suspension means giving up their only mode of transportation to work, forcing them to choose between losing their jobs and risking jail time for driving on a suspended license. These long-suffering Virginia drivers will continue to endure a never-ending cycle of debt and incarceration, so long as the law forces them to choose between driving illegally and forsaking the needs of their families. 

To read more about the lawsuit, or to download the briefs, go to http://www.justice4all.org/drive.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide. 

New Report on Virginia’s School Discipline Crisis

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                      

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

New Report: Virginia’s School Discipline Crisis—Racial Disparities Widened in 2016-17; Suspended Students Across the Commonwealth Received Inadequate (or No) Education While Out of School

Charlottesville, Virginia (October 25, 2018) – Virginia schools continued to use school exclusion as a consequence for student behavioral concerns at an alarming rate during the 2016-17 academic year—an ongoing crisis that harms Black students and students with disabilities most profoundly.   

A 2018 update to the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Suspended Progress report series reveals that, during the 2016-17 school year, Virginia schools issued over 127,800 out-of-school suspensions to over 73,000 students, marking an increase over the prior year in the number of students in the Commonwealth subjected to exclusionary discipline.

In this update to Suspended Progress, the Legal Aid Justice Center finds that:

  • Black students were suspended at rates 5 times higher than Hispanic and white students, a significantly wider gap over the prior year;
  • Students with disabilities were suspended at rates 3 times higher than that of non-disabled students;
  • Virginia schools continued to suspend very young students at an astonishing rate, issuing nearly 18,000 short-term suspensions and at least 111 long-term suspensions just to children in pre-k through 3rd grade—a marked increase over the 2015-16 year;
  • Once again, the vast majority of all suspensions were issued for minor offenses, with approximately two-thirds of all suspensions issued for behavior offenses like: possession of cell phones, minor insubordination, disrespect, and using inappropriate language; and
  • Students excluded from their home school—if they continue to receive education at all—are often funneled into inadequate alternative programs that operate without accountability to academic goals or the Commonwealth’s high educational standards.

“Too often in Virginia schools, we use ‘suspension’ and ‘accountability’ as synonyms,” said Amy Woolard, Legal Aid Justice Center attorney and author of the report. “When students exhibit behavioral issues, we can and should look to alternatives to school exclusion that can hold students accountable if needed, while also continuing their education and addressing underlying needs, such as physical and mental health supports, trauma-informed care, disability services, and mentoring.”

The report points to proven alternatives to school exclusion that keep students connected to academics and provide tailored interventions when needed. Those trauma-informed alternatives include restorative practices, multi-tiered systems of supports, and Social and Emotional Learning programs as positive steps local schools can implement in lieu of exclusion.

The Legal Aid Justice Center’s report provides policymakers with immediate steps to take during the 2019 General Assembly session to continue their work in pushing forward on positive reforms of the disciplinary system. It also offers local school boards and communities a framework for ensuring student codes of conduct promote positive school climate and keep students on track toward graduation—all of which, in turn, increases school safety for students and school staff alike.

“We must address our constitutional duty to provide a high-quality public education to all students, and particularly to Black students and students with disabilities, who have been bearing the devastating brunt of school exclusion practices for far too long,” said Woolard. “Our response to behavioral issues cannot continue to drive students out of the classroom and away from the positive connections and critical supports they need to thrive and successfully reach graduation.”

To read the report, visit: www.justice4all.org/suspension.

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About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

Follow the Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and on Facebook.

 

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