Our View of the Legislature – Restorative Discipline

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Crossover was on Tuesday, February 12, 2024, which means that all bills had to have been approved in their original house, so that they could be considered by the other house beginning on the 13th. As a result, one bill concerning student discipline that would have been very problematic for children with disabilities is dead for the year, and one set of bills that hold promise for children are still under consideration.

Restorative Discipline

The bills that look somewhat promising for children with disabilities encourage the concept of restorative discipline. Under restorative discipline, the practice is to respond to disruptive behaviors not with punishment but by focusing the child on correcting the harm caused. HB 398 (McQuinn) and SB 586 (Pekarsy) would prohibit any public elementary or secondary school student from being suspended, expelled, or excluded from attendance at school without implementing at least one evidence-based restorative disciplinary practice.

The House bill was amended to remove direct reference to the concept of restorative discipline, but instead to simply ask schools to consider positive alternatives to suspension, except where there are aggravating circumstances. That bill was passed by the House in its amended form. It will now be considered by the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

The Senate Bill was also amended, to allow for in-school suspension while restorative discipline practices are pending, but still prohibiting suspension except for aggravating circumstances, unless restorative discipline is attempted. It was approved by the full Senate and now goes to the House Committee on Education.

Uniform System of Discipline

HB 853 (Obenshain) would have required the state to have a uniform system of discipline, including provisions for the automatic removal of a student from a classroom for “violent” disruptive behavior, and a “three-strike” system for removal of students whose behavior is non-violent, but disruptive. This bill is identical to a bill that was defeated last session, with strong opposition from the disability community. The bill was tabled in the House Committee on Education.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals. We support independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation.