More than 2 dozen changes to student handbook coming to Fairfax Co. schools

The Fairfax County School Board has approved sweeping changes to the way students are disciplined in the Northern Virginia county.

The new Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, which was approved by the board on Thursday, includes more than two dozen changes meant to standardize the way discipline is handed down in the school system.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the changes will take effect in the fall, and that school administrators will get training in the new handbook before students return to class.

Among the changes, schools will now be required to notify parents of the situation before the student is questioned by administrators or signs a statement about the incident.

The language describing violations is also changing from “disorderly conduct” to “disruptive behavior.” The shift is meant to create more separation between school discipline and the criminal charge of disorderly conduct.

Sandra Evans, who represents the Mason District on the board, proposed changing the language.

“Our parents are our partners when we discipline our students, particularly when our students are in serious trouble at school,” Evans said at the meeting.

The consequences for those violations have also been made more standardized. Chief Equality Officer Francisco Duran said taking the subjectivity out of the process is crucial to solving problems of disproportionality.

“They give a lot more detail as to what that looks like, so it’s not left to interpretation,” said Duran.

The changes follow outside recommendations and an internal review as the system saw certain groups of students face a disproportionate amount of discipline.

Overall, the changes reflect an emphasis on fairness and rehabilitation. Braband said that focusing on second chances is in the best interest for everyone.

“The academic impact for kids who get involved in our process, it doesn’t just impact care and culture, it impacts student success,” said Brabrand.

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