RICHMOND- Governor McAuliffe today signed legislation directing the Board of Education to develop best practice alternatives to school suspensions. The legislation aligns with the Governor’s Classrooms not Courtrooms initiative, which aims to reduce school suspensions and curb student referrals to law enforcement. As part of that initiative, the Governor today also unveiled a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and updated School Resource Officer Program Guide.
“I am proud of my administration’s strong commitment to reducing unnecessary suspensions and expulsions, keeping students in school where they can receive support services, stay on track with their coursework, and ultimately become thriving members of the new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I am also grateful to Delegate Bagby and Senator Wexton for their leadership on this issue. We cannot afford to lose a generation of students because we failed to act – because the children we keep in the classroom today are the adults who will fill the high-demand jobs of tomorrow.”
“Despite robust efforts over the last few years at both the state and local levels, there are still too many young people being put at risk by exclusionary discipline practices. Removing students from their learning environments often results in significant setbacks to their opportunities for future success,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.
HB 1924 and SB 829 were sponsored by Delegate Lamont Bagby and Senator Jennifer Wexton, which charge the Virginia Board of Education with creating guidelines on alternatives to short term and long term suspension, for consideration by local school boards.
“The data in Virginia is clear – our students of color and students with disabilities are being suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than their peers,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby. “This legislation is a necessary step in supporting local divisions with alternatives, but a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure these discriminatory practices come to an end.”
“I am thankful to see the number of suspensions and expulsions dropping throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Jennifer Wexton. “But we must continue to implement alternative practices and support students with services rather than remove them entirely from our schools.”
Additionally, the new model MOU is a legal framework used by schools and local law enforcement partners to define the role and purpose of school resource officers and school administrators as it relates to school discipline. The revised School Resource Officer Program Guide provides more detailed and technical guidance on implementing that MOU for school resource officers and schools. They can be found online here.