Disciplinary incidents in Fairfax Co. schools have more than doubled, new report finds

The number of disciplinary incidents reported in Fairfax County, Virginia, public schools more than doubled in the first semester of the current school year, compared to the first semester of the 2021-22 academic year, according to preliminary county data.

In a report by the Office of Intervention and Prevention Services, the county said it has experienced 23,128 incidents in the first semester of the 2022-23 school year, an increase of 12,609 compared to the previous school year.

The report was compiled as part of a new school board directive that called for a detailed discipline report, disaggregated by school and subgroup, to be completed for infractions of the county’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Regulation, such as violations of dress code and rules for cellphones and other technology.

Virginia’s largest school system reviews the regulation, which it calls SR&R, annually. It’s currently working to craft the SR&R for the next school year.

The increase in disciplinary incidents, the school system said, could be attributed to factors including the restoration of behavior expectations that were in place before the pandemic, the impact of more than a year of virtual learning and “stretched capacity of staff due to staff vacancies.”

Many of the top infractions in the first semester of the 2022-23 school year remained the same as those identified during the same time period in the last school year. Skipping class; a minor physical altercation such as pushing, striking, or biting a student without a visible injury; and showing up late to class unexcused were the top three infractions during the first semester.

Other top infractions included interfering with learning in a classroom, failure to comply with staff, leaving school property, insubordination and disrespectful speaking, according to the report.

One type of disciplinary incident — engaging in reckless behavior that creates a risk of injury to one’s self or to others — is included in the top 10 during the first semester of the current school year, but wasn’t in the top 10 during the same time frame of the last school year.

“The inclusion of this type of behavior aligns with administrators’ anecdotal descriptions of the behaviors they are seeing in schools,” the report said.

Overall, Black and Hispanic students were overrepresented in discipline data, according to the report. Students with disabilities, meanwhile, were disproportionately represented, according to the data. Students categorized as having English language proficiency at Levels 1-4 were also disproportionately represented.

“Continued emphasis on determining root-cause, addressing bias, and cultural responsiveness will
continue to be important as we work to reduce disproportionality by race/ethnicity,” the report said.

The same is true for out-of-school suspensions (OSS) — students with disabilities and those with free and reduced price meals were overrepresented in OSS data, as were Black/African American students, when compared with their peers. However, the percentage of Black/African American students who received out-of-school suspension in the first semester of the 2022-23 school year decreased when compared with the previous year.

The school system identifies actions, such as using positive behavior interventions and supports and social emotional learning, among others, as things that will “be essential in decreasing discipline incidents in schools.”

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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