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Virginia House Votes Down Bill That Aimed to Limit School Arrests

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Virginia's House of Delegates on Monday voted down a bill that would have prohibited school-based arrests for disorderly conduct for students ages 14 and younger.

The bill was championed by advocates for school discipline reform as a way of reducing the state's high rate of student arrests by limiting the reasons students can be referred to school-based law enforcement officers. Disorderly conduct is a broad, subjective statute that often leads to law enforcement sanctions for behaviors that should be dealt with by school officials, they argued.

But Virginia's House voted down the bill 36-60, with one member abstaining. Members who voted against the bill argued that "students should not be granted immunity based solely on where the conduct took place," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

"I agree that we need to find out why this is going on. We need to put a stop to a bunch of it," said Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, according to the Times-Dispatch. "But what this bill does is say that in no case can you ever charge a student with disorderly conduct. It is blanket immunity."

The Virginia bill was one of several that state lawmakers have proposed to rework school discipline to reduce classroom removals and to drive down disproportionately high discipline rates for students of color. The other bills are still pending, but they face a steep path to approval, the Times-Dispatch reports. 

As I wrote recently, Virginia is one of a handful of states that have aimed to tackle student arrests in current legislative sessions. South Carolina lawmakers have also aimed to eliminate student arrests for "disturbing a school," the broad infraction that led to a violent video taped arrest of girl there last year.


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