The Virginia general Assembly is back in action, and it did not take long for a bill to get onto the VASSP radar. This particular bill is an amendment to Code of Virginia statutes §§ 22.1-277, 22.1-277.04, and 22.1-277.05, which you can access by clicking on the hyperlinks. Specifically, the amendment reads:
Students may be suspended or expelled from attendance at school for sufficient cause; however, a student may only be suspended after all feasible alternatives to suspension have been considered and in no cases may sufficient cause for suspensions include only instances of truancy.
While on the surface, this amendment, like so many other amendments and bills that come from governing officials, seems innocuous enough. But some deeper reflection on the wording of the amendment reveals some cause for concern.
First and foremost, I don’t think that there is an administrator that is not in favor of an alternative to suspension. I would venture to say that the vast majority of school systems ion Commonwealth have some form of suspension alternatives. I think most administrators would agree that if they are not in school we can’t provide quality instruction and there is very little learning taking place. But there are other words in the proposed amendment that are much more troubling. Specifically the words “all” and “feasible”, which add an entirely different context to the amendment. Dr. Roger E. Jones, Dean of the School of Education, Leadership Studies, and Counseling and a member of the VFEL Faculty, said it best. When asked about the proposed amendment, Jones’ comment was, “Who determines feasible and when does all become ALL?”. Feasible for a parent or an advocate is something completely different than feasible for a school administrator. When it comes to “all” that is a pretty large and inclusive word. Can any administrator really consider ALL alternatives to a suspension?
You can rest assured that VASSP will continue to track this bill and offer suggestions for improving it. As a VASSP member, it is critically important that your voice is heard as well. Contact your state representatives and voice your concern over this amendment. And be sure to check the VASSP website frequently for updates on the General Assembly.