As the General Assembly begins its work reviewing bills for the 2023 legislative session, dLCV is monitoring bills that could affect students with disabilities in the Commonwealth’s public schools. Students with disabilities, like students of color, are disproportionately affected by school disciplinary policies and practices and by the criminalization of student conduct. Several bills are already making their way onto Committee dockets in this area, and we anticipate more to come. These bills include:
HB 1461 (Wiley): Would result in a uniform system of discipline in schools throughout the Commonwealth that would include, among other provisions, a “three-strike system” whereby a teacher would be required to remove a student from her class if the student displayed disruptive behavior after two warnings. The bill would also protect teachers from liability “for taking reasonable actions or utilizing reasonable methods to control a physically disruptive or violently disruptive student.” The bill does not define “reasonable actions,” and it is unclear how this protection from liability would interact with the specific limitations placed on the use of seclusion and restraint in Virginia’s seclusion and restraint regulations. This bill will be heard in the House Committee on Education
HB 1981 (Kory): Would make 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 eliminate that exemption and protect students from the unnecessary use of seclusion and restraint by SSOs and SROs in school settings.
HB 1983 (Kory): Would require 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.
The disAbility Law Center of Virginia will be following these and other bills concerning the rights of people with disabilities as they make their way through their respective legislative committees throughout the session. Our mission is to advance 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. We are available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals. Please let us know of any issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.