The Fairfax County School board passed a series of amendments Thursday night that will give school administrators more flexibility and students more support when they enter the school system’s disciplinary process.
Among the most significant measures, was the school board’s decision to rely less heavily on “involuntary transfer” as a form of punishment.
Under the unanimously approved amendment, school officials will have to consider alternatives such as, community service, loss of privileges, or detention before opting to transfer the student to another school.
“This amendment will hopefully end the practice of automatically transferring a student as the first option of discipline,” said at-large school board member Martina Hone.
For students facing out-of-school suspension, the school board vote, when possible, to provide academic support and other services that would help the student maintain his or her academic standing.
The school board also voted to allow parents to request and subsequently front the bill for a court reporter to appear at their child’s disciplinary hearing and/or transcribe the proceedings.
Under the new regulations, re, the audio of student disciplinary hearings will be recorded.
After a months-long review process, the school board’s changes fall short of the demands of local activists, namely the school board decided not to make any changes to Dale’s recommendations regarding parent notification.
For example, the school board did not pass an amendment that would have forced school administrators to notify parents that their child was suspected of breaking school rules prior to questioning the student about the incident.
School board members Sandra S. Evans and Ilryong Moon withdrew two other amendments aiming to involve parents earlier in the investigation of their child’s alleged misconduct.
Many school board members acknowledged that their proposals did not go as far as some of their critics might like, but emphasized that the vote was an important first step in reforming the school system's discplinary process.
“Whatever is done or not done tonight I believe is the beginning of a process,” said at-large school board member James Raney at the start of the meeting.
The school board made a symbolic gesture to community members by passing an amendment that renames Student Responsibilities and Rights to Student Rights and Responsibilities, which they said shows their desire to put the needs of students first.
Prior to the school board meeting, parents and other supporters of zero tolerance reform held a rally. To see video and photos, click here.