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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FX CO school board to review recommendations on discipline

During the past few months, the Fairfax County school board has been reviewing FCPS student discipline policies as a result of complaints about the overly punitive policies and procedures now in place.

One issue in particular that drew much criticism is the policy of forcing students to transfer to another school. Another is the automatic suspension of students caught with medications, even if they have a valid prescription. What brought the issue to a head, however, was the suicide of a Woodson High School student last winter, following his suspension for bringing a legal but controlled substance to school.

On Monday, May 16, the school board will hold a work session on the recommendations by Superintendent Jack Dale for overhauling FCPS discipline policies.

Dale’s recommendations are based on issues identified by the school board, including the needs for non-punitive approaches and interventions, to “unravel the zero tolerance issue,” limit suspensions and expulsions, implement due process protection, provide academic support to suspended students, and improve parent notification procedures.

Dales recommendations include the following:
  • Require every school to implement a positive behavior approach.
  • Allow principals to conduct preliminary reviews of individual cases.
  • Automatically refer students suspended for more than five days to a “child study team.”
  • Shorten the timeline between an incident and a disciplinary hearing.
  • Provide individualized academic support to suspended students.
  • Explore substance abuse education programs for first-time offenders with a return to their base school.
  • Audio record all hearings.
  • Provide translators at hearings.
Mason District School Board member Sandy Evans says she supports Dale’s proposals but also wants the board “to expand them to include other revisions, such as more parent notification and more academic support for students when they are on suspension.”

The work session is open to the public. It will take place at the Gatehouse Administration Center, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, beginning at about 2 p.m.

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