Our View of the Legislature: Update – Policing Student Conduct

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The disAbility Law Center of Virginia previously outlined a series of bills that would expand the role of law enforcement in policing student misbehavior and further criminalize student conduct. Because students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by harsh disciplinary practices in schools and by the criminalization of student misbehavior, we are monitoring these bills closely.

  1. Reports to law enforcement:

Currently, school principals are only required to report offenses that may constitute felony offenses if committed by an adult. At the start of the session, there were four (4) House Bills and two (2) Senate Bills that would expand the number of incidents of student misbehavior that must be reported by school principals to law enforcement, including certain misdemeanor offenses. One of the bills has been amended and fully passed, and a companion will likely be fully passed soon.

HB 4 (Wyatt): This Bill has been amended multiple times and has now passed both the House and Senate in its amended form. In its current form, the bill still expands the number of incidents that must be reported to law enforcement, but it is significantly narrower in this respect than when it was initially proposed. It also contains a narrow exception to the reporting requirements for incidents involving threats against school personnel when the student is on an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The bill now goes to the Governor for review.

SB 36 (Norment): This Bill has been amended multiple times and is currently identical to HB 4. It has been passed by the Senate and reported out of the House of the Committee on Education, by a vote of 18-4, and has been read twice in the House. We expect it to have its final vote later today.

Other bills that would also have expanded the number of incidents that must be reported by school principals to law enforcement are no longer in play: HB 59 (McGuire), HB 308 (Ransone), HB 985 (Anderson), SB 2 (Cosgrove), and SB 613 (Stanley).

  1. Mandatory employment of School Resource Officers (SROs)

Three (3) Bills were introduced at the start of this session to require school boards to enter into Memoranda of Understanding with local law enforcement and to employ School Resource Officers (SROs) in their schools. All three are effectively dead:

HB 873 (Greenhalgh): Passed the House by a vote of 52-48 but was “passed by indefinitely” by the Senate Subcommittee on Education and Health. It is no longer viable.

HB 37 (Anderson), and SB 415 (DeSteph), which both would have required schools to employ School Resource Officers, both failed to make it out of their respective committees.

  1. Classifying student disruptions as criminal “disorderly conduct”

HB 89 (Walker): This Bill has passed the House of Delegates in amended form.  It was rereferred from the Senate Committee on Education and Health to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, but it is not yet on a meeting agenda. If it is to be heard this session, we would expect that to be on Wednesday, March 2. In its original form, this Bill would have removed an existing exception to Virginia’s disorderly conduct statute that excludes disruptive student behavior from the definition of the criminal offense of “disorderly conduct.” The amended Bill removes the existing exception only for high school students, but leaves it in place for elementary and middle school students.

Although the session is on its final days, the disAbility Law Center of Virginia remains available to educate policy makers about the potential impact of legislative proposals and budgetary considerations. Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.