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Learning, Behavioral Issues Could Be Defense for Virginia Students

A bill that would allow juveniles to use documented disabilities as a defense for school-related misbehaviors has cleared the Virginia General Assembly and is headed to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's desk for his signature. 

House Bill 1213 will apply to "delinquent acts" that would be misdemeanors if committed by adults. The law allows students to introduce their individualized education programs, behavioral intervention plan, or 504 plan. 504 plans, created under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, provide accommodations to students with health or cognitive issues that are not covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

The Center for Public Integrity found in a 2013 report that Virginia led the nation in referring students to law enforcement agencies. About 16 referrals were made for every 1,000 students in the state, compared to a rate of six referrals for every 1,000 students nationwide. 

The bill found overwhelming approval among state lawmakers; the vote was 39-1 in the Senate on March 2, and 95-1 March 7 in the House of Delegates. 

"It seems to us that a lot of times, schools get really frustrated with the kids and they charge them with a crime, in my opinion, to just kick them out of school instead of educate them," Del. David Albo, a Republican and the bill's sponsor, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch


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