State Senator From Loudoun Hopes To Reform Role Of School Police Officers
In response to reports of overzealous police charging troubled students with criminal disorderly conduct charges for behavioral issues, several Virginia state lawmakers recently introduced legislation aimed at curbing criminal prosecution of students in lieu of alternative scholastic discipline. Loudoun County Republican state delegate Dave LaRock introduced two such measures, HB 1132 and HB 1134.
- HB 1132 would remove language from current laws requiring school officials to report any possible misdemeanors to police. Felony drug charges and other serious would still be reported to law enforcement.
- HB 1134 would no longer allow primary and secondary school students to be charged with disorderly conduct stemming from bad behavior on school grounds or at school events.
Other bills aimed at stemming the tide of student arrest are working their ways through the Virginia House of Delegates.
- HB 1061, sponsored by Henrico County Democrat Lamont Bagby, would require school administrators to consider alternative solutions before reporting incidents to law enforcement. Serious charges such as firearms and weapons possession would be exempt.
- HB 487, sponsored by Richmond Democrat Jennifer McClellan, would no longer require police resource officers to directly enforce school board rules and codes of conduct. The bill has widespread bipartisan support.
Bill would strengthen rights of disabled students
Yet another bill, HB 1213, introduced by Fairfax Station Republican delegate David Albo would afford special-needs students charged with disorderly conduct the right to introduce behavioral assessments and special education plans as part of their defense. Students would have up until 10 days before trial to provide such documents to the courts as part of their defense strategy.
Virginia leads nation in student referrals to police
According to a study by the Center for Public Integrity, between 2011-2012, Virginia saw a student-law enforcement referral rate of 16 students per 1,000: three times the national average. Special-needs students and students of color saw even higher rates.
- White students: 13.1/1000 students
- Black students: 25.3/1000 students
- Hispanic students: 12/1000 students
- Disabled students: 33.4/1000 students
The Center’s report was originally released in April 2015. After this, Gov. Terry McAuliffe created a cabinet level task force to investigate the disturbing trend and propose solutions to the problem of policing students. In October 2015, the taskforce launched the initiatives “Classrooms, not Courtrooms” suggesting police and administrators pursue alternative means of dealing with problem behavior.
Virginia mental health attorneys
As a law firm that focuses part of its practice on mental health and special education laws, the attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC are encouraged by the progress state lawmakers are making in reforming our current system. Many times, children with special needs or behavioral problems are placed at the mercy of police and courts unequipped to deal with the child’s issues.
If you feel your child’s special education and behavioral issues are not being properly addressed by schools and courts, contact our law firm for a consultation about your case. Existing Virginia law already gives parents the tools to help their children succeed and our attorneys may be able to help your case.