Loudoun County School Board OKs new student discipline policy

The Loudoun County School Board has unanimously approved a new student discipline policy that allows the Northern Virginia school system to keep students accused of serious offenses out of the general population, rather than being moved to a different school.

The school board on Tuesday voted to approve an updated 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 boy, who sexually assaulted a second schoolmate at a second school, the school system began evaluating its discipline policy, in the hopes of preventing a recurrence.

Under the new policy, which has undergone revisions and public feedback since February 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.

The new law specifies while students can be suspended for sufficient cause, “in no case may sufficient cause for suspension include only instances of truancy.”

“That would be counterproductive,” said Board Member Tom Marshall, chair of the discipline committee.

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.

“The policy is heavily impacted by Virginia code,” Marshall told the other board members. “It’s pretty much dictated by the state of Virginia.”

For students with disabilities, under the new policy: “When suspensions or expulsions are being contemplated, a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), Section 504 plan, and/or Functional Behavior Assessment/Behavior Intervention Plan shall be reviewed to ensure all accommodations and necessary support services are in place and are being implemented with fidelity,” or other meetings will be held to make any necessary changes.

In January 2022, Superintendent Scott Ziegler told the school board that the school system was taking concrete steps to increase school safety in instances when a student has been accused.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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