Loudoun Co. School Board considers new discipline consequences for students

Loudoun County, Virginia’s school board will soon vote on a new student discipline policy that would give the school system more latitude to keep students accused of serious offenses out of the general population, rather than being moved to a different school.

On Tuesday, the school board will consider the latest version of Policy 8220, which widens the options for administrators who “can suspend a student from school to provide a safe learning environment.”

Last year, amid scrutiny, concerned parents, politicization, threatened lawsuits and the juvenile court proceedings of a now-15-year old boy, who sexually assaulted a second schoolmate at a second school, the school system began evaluating its discipline policy, in hopes of preventing a recurrence.

Under the proposed plan, which has undergone revisions and public feedback since Feb. 2022, once a serious incident is reported to the superintendent, the student could be placed in an alternative educational setting, “which may be in-person, virtual or a hybrid.”

In addition, “LCPS may require any student to attend such alternative setting regardless of where the crime was committed,” either on school property, or elsewhere.

For younger students, “no student in preschool through grade three shall be suspended for more than three school days or expelled from attendance at school unless the offense involves physical harm or credible threat of physical harm to others,” or if the child committed certain weapons or drug violations.

In Jan. 2022, Superintendent Scott Ziegler told the school board that Loudoun County Public Schools was taking concrete steps to increase school safety in instances when a student has been accused.

“Starting in October, we looked at our serious discipline interventions, and how they were moving through the system,” Ziegler said, in January 2022. “We’ve put in a system where a recommendation for long-term suspension” comes from the student’s school.

“The student and their family are afforded a due-process hearing, where both the school and student and their family are allowed to present evidence and have a dialogue with a hearing officer,” Ziegler said. “That hearing officer then has the option to institute the long-term suspension, but to have the long-term suspension served at the North Star School, in an alternative placement.”

The North Star School — an alternative and adult education center located in Leesburg — opened in fall 2021. The LCPS Alternative Education program was previously located in the Douglass School, which is undergoing renovations, and will eventually house the school system’s English Learners, Head Start, STEP, and Child Find Programs.

According to agenda item details, if the proposed plan is approved during Tuesday’s meeting, it could come back for a final vote on Sept. 13. The first day of school for Loudoun County Public Schools is Aug. 25.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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