Fairfax Schools Superintendent Proposes Changes To Discipline Process

5:55 PM, Mar 30, 2011   |    comments
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FALLS, CHURCH, Va.  (WUSA) - Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale is proposing six recommendations to improve the school's discipline process.  

The most significant change would be to allow principals handle the discipline of students caught with their own prescription medicine in school.   The current policy has those children being suspended and recommended for expulsion.

South Lakes High School Principal Bruce Butler supports the change:  "I think that's an appropriate change because it's one of the areas where common sense and policy did not seem to completely align."

"Ridiculously harsh," is the way Helen Russell described how her daughter was suspended and transferred after  she was caught with her acne medication at school.  

"Wonderful," says Helen Russell of Dale's proposed changes.   

Megan McLaughlin, chair of the Fairfax Education Coalition says, "I think it's a good start, but it's just a start, it's unfortunate it took the loss of Nick Stuban to bring this evaluation."

Nick Stuban committed suicide after being suspended and transferred from Woodson High School to another school where he fell into a depression. His parents say the discipline process, which included a verbally abusive hearing contributed to his death.

Superintendent Dale is also proposing to start recording the hearings, which is what the Stubans said needed to happen.

Nick's mother, Sandy Stuban, who is paralyzed from ALS disease, told 9NEWS NOW she's pleased about Dale's proposal to record the hearings, but disappointed involuntary transfers will continue. So is John Farrell, who is chair of the organization Zero Tolerance Reform. 

"Most of these kids are not drug dealers.  They're not bringing deadly weapons to school. They're bringing pen knives.  It's the Boy Scout knife that got left in the backpack that they forgot and they walk down to the office and say, 'Please hold on to this for me,' and then they get expelled.  They get involuntarily transferred.   It shouldn't happen.  Common sense should be the hallmark of the process," said John Farrell.

But Dr. Dale says transferring students to other schools does help many of them get off to fresh start and succeed, and he says it's necessary to protect students.

"There's two reasons for transferring a child.  One is you've lost the right to go to your own school because your behavior or your actions have been egregious.  The second is to protect victims, " said Dale.  

Dale is also recommending to begin collecting data on children who are disciplined to see if their punishment helps them succeed or not.

But McLaughlin says it's not right to continue involuntary transfers without having that date in the first place.

"In first offenses, students who have never been in trouble before, and they're involuntarily transferred, and as chronicled in several cases, it leads to depression, their grades fall, they feel isolated, and it's harmful to kids," said McLaughlin.

 

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