In Virginia, some students are suspended for months, or even an entire school year. A new law that takes effect July 1st, seeks to change that.
Amy Woolard with the Legal Aid Justice Center says long term suspensions are getting more common, not less. Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted.
“And these are suspensions that can even stretch over several grades. A student could be suspended in the spring and continue to have to serve that suspension in the Fall,” says Woolard. “So we’ve actually had cases where students lost two grades because of one long term suspension.”
Now a new law sets a cap: 45 days. Another law sets a much lower cap, three days, for third graders and under. The new caps do make an exception for cases involving weapons.
Woolard says she hopes the measures encourage school divisions to shift away from punishment and towards improving school climate and addressing root causes of behaviors.
“Finding ways to keep kids connected to their education even as we expect accountability for their behaviors,” she says.
That could be dialogue, mediation, or community service. State regulators are expected to publish a list of alternatives that school divisions can use as a resource.