Now that Virginia’s General Assembly has adjourned, albeit without a budget, the fate of many of the bills that dLCV has been tracking is now sealed. dLCV tracked Bills that could have had an impact on students with disabilities in Virginia during this legislative session. As was anticipated, most did not survive the session. Those that did still must be acted on by the Governor before they can become law. The Governor has 30 days from “sine die” to act on bills. When a bill makes its way to the Governor’s desk, he may sign it into law, veto it, or recommend one or more amendments. The General Assembly will return for a reconvened session on April 12, at which point it may override the Governor’s vetoes by a two-thirds vote of each house, and either approve or override the Governor’s recommended edits to bills.
The following passed both the Senate and the House and now await action by the Governor:
- SB 1300 (Deeds) was originally about trauma-informed training for teachers. In its original form, this bill would have directed the VDOE and DBHDS to collaborate to develop a comprehensive trauma-informed training program. It would have also required each school board to adopt policies and procedures requiring each primary and secondary school teacher to complete the trauma-informed training program annually. The bill was amended during the session to instead require the VDOE to collaborate with the Virginia Tiered System of Supports Research and Implementation Center to modify existing Trauma Learning Modules. In its amended form, it no longer addresses teacher training requirements. This bill passed both houses and awaits action by the Governor.
- HB 1691 (Greenhalgh) addresses the SRO Grant Program, expanding the existing School Resource Officer (SRO) Grant Program and Fund to allow the program to be used to support SROs in elementary schools, in addition to middle and high schools, and to allow such funds to be used for the purchase of “equipment,” provided that such equipment does not include firearms, handcuffs or other wrist restraints, or stun weapons. It passed both houses and awaits action by the Governor.
The following Bills did not survive this legislative session, because they failed to pass in at least one of the two Houses that make up Virginia’s General Assembly:
- HB 1980 (Kory), on Student Discipline, would have required the VA Board of Education to include in its model policies for student conduct criteria for the use of non-exclusionary discipline measures as alternatives to exclusionary discipline. It failed to report out of the House Education Committee.
- HB 1981 (Kory), on Seclusion and Restraint, would have made the provisions of the Regulations Governing the Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Virginia applicable to school security officers (SSOs) and school resource officers (SROs). When the seclusion and restraint regulations were drafted, SSOs and SROs were explicitly exempted from their provisions. This bill would have eliminated that exemption and protected students from the unnecessary use of seclusion and restraint by SSOs and SROs in school settings. It failed to report from the House Education Committee.
- HB 1983 (Kory): on Positive Behavioral Supports, would have required the Department of Education (VDOE) to establish a work group to consider best practices for positive behavioral supports for students and trauma-informed school security practices, including examining the feasibility and appropriateness of hiring school safety coaches who can monitor the school environment for safety and build positive relationships with students and implementing policies and strategies for increasing the number of other appropriately trained school personnel. School safety coaches are an alternative to SROs and SSOs, who are typically trained in developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed approaches to supporting students in the school environment. It failed to report from the House Education Committee
- HB 1461 (Wiley): on School Discipline, would have directed the Virginia Board of Education to develop a uniform system of discipline to be in effect in every school in Virginia. The uniform system of discipline would have included a requirement that students be removed from their classrooms for disruptive behavior under specified circumstances. Although the Bill contained some language suggesting exceptions for students with disabilities, it was widely expected by disability advocates that the Bill would have disproportionately affected students with disabilities and students of color, who are already disproportionately impacted by existing exclusionary discipline practices and the school-to-prison pipeline. After passing the House of Representatives by a vote of 52 – 46, the Bill was passed indefinitely in the Senate Committee on Education and Health by a vote of 9 – 6.
- HB 2358 (Durant) on School Protection Officers, would have created a new category of school-based law enforcement officer called a school protection officer, defined in the bill as a retired law-enforcement officer hired by the local law enforcement agency on a part-time basis to provide limited law-enforcement and security services to public elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth. In recent years, efforts have been taken to make the SRO system more transparent and accountable, and it was unclear how this new law enforcement position would have fit into the established school resource officer (SRO) system, or if these newly defined law enforcement officers would operate outside of the current system altogether, thereby sidestepping the already limited transparency and accountability systems in place. After passing the House of Representatives by a vote of 51 – 48, the bill was passed indefinitely in the Senate Committee on Education and Health by a vote of 9 – 6.
- SB 920 (Stuart) on School Protection Officers was identical to HB 2358 and failed to report from the Senate Committee on the Judiciary by a vote of 7 – 8.
- SB 1334 (Hashmi) concerning an IEP Meeting Code of Ethics, in its initial form, this bill would have directed the Board of Education to develop a code of ethics to be enforced by school districts during IEP meetings. During the session, a substitute bill was introduced, which would have directed the Board of Education to convene a workgroup to make recommendations about such a code of ethics. After passing the Senate by a vote of 23 – 17, the bill was laid on the table in the House Rules committee.
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