The Loudoun County School Board tonight is scheduled for a briefing on an amendment to student discipline policy that would give administrators authority to keep students who have been accused of serious offenses out of school and away from other students.
The updated policy comes as the division faces continuing criticism for allowing a student who sexually assaulted a female student at one county high school to be transferred to another school, where he assaulted a second female student. The incident spurred a special grand jury investigation led by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler stated during an Oct. 15, 2021 press conference following the second assault that the district handled the cases in compliance with Title IX, but that the process was insufficient in addressing the issues.
“It has become very clear that our administrative procedures have not kept pace with the growth we have seen in our county. While informal protocols and school-based autonomy may work in small and medium-sized school divisions they are simply not sufficient in a county with 82,000 students,” he said at the time.
Ziegler promised to fast-track changes to the process to “protect the safety of the student body and the rights of the accused.”
The changes update the suspension rules, giving greater freedom to administrators to keep students who have been accused of serious offenses out of school and away from other students.
A new section deals specifically with crimes in the community and states “any student charged with an offense relating to the Commonwealth’s laws, or with a violation of school board policies, on weapons, alcohol or drugs or intentional injury to another person or with an offense that is required to be disclosed to the superintendent of the school division pursuant to subsection G of 16.1-260 may be placed in an alternative educational setting.” That alternative educational setting may be in person, virtual, or a hybrid of both. According to the policy, the division may require the student to attend the alternative setting regardless of where the crime was committed.
The updated policy also states any student who the superintendent has received a report of as having been found guilty or not innocent of a crime dealing with weapons, alcohol or drugs, or of a crime that resulted in or could have resulted in injury to others or an offense that is required to be disclosed to the superintendent may be suspended or expelled.
Other updates include the authority for teachers to remove students from their classrooms because of disruptive behavior. The superintendent is responsible for creating a procedure to make sure suspended students have access to graded work during and after their suspension. Additionally, the policy has been updated to require that suspensions or expulsions for students with disabilities must include a review of the students Individual Education Plan and Functional Behavior Assessment Behavior Intervention Plan to make sure accommodations and support services are in place.
The School Board’s Discipline Committee initially revised Policy 8220 Student Disciplinary Consequences in February. The policy was presented for public feedback which brought additional revisions. More feedback was given on the changes between May 24 and June 7. Final edits were made on June 30.
The School Board is expected to vote on the revised policy at its Sept. 13 meeting.