Va. school system rethinks student handbook

Dick Uliano,

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The days of zero tolerance in the student code of conduct may be ending in one area school system.

The Fairfax County School Board is weighing 30 recommendations for modifying the student handbook for the academic year beginning in the fall.

Perhaps the biggest change would be reducing the numbers of suspensions and expulsions.

“Ranges of consequences, that’s where we’re going to really work to make more options, more discretion for principals,” says Kim Dockery, assistant superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools.

The school board staff and a special committee of teachers, parents, and principals have worked for months preparing recommendations for changing the school system’s code of discipline.

The policies cover everything from classroom disruptions and fighting to drug possession.

Dockery says its important that children learn from their mistakes and not simply be punished.

Behavior seminars and anger management training would become part of the discipline regime.

The changes would also allow for different ranges of punishment for elementary and secondary school students.

“If you think about three 10-year-olds being in a fight and three 17-year-olds in a fight then we’re giving some discretion for the administrator to really look at that situation,” Dockery says.

The school system has been considering changes to its discipline since a Fairfax County high school student took his own life two years ago after he was suspended from school for a minor drug infraction.

“The goal is to do the best that we can for our students, giving them second chances but also maintaining a safe and secure and drug free school environment,” Dockery says.

The school board could make a final decision on the proposed changes in early May.

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