Lawmakers propose strengthening parental notification policy

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State lawmakers say a high schooler's life might have been saved if the school he attended did a better job of talking with his parents. Now, they're pushing bills that would keep parents in the loop, like never before.

If a student gets in serious trouble at school...there's no law that says parents have to be notified prior to a school's disciplinary investigation. A lot of schools make the notification, anyway, but lawmakers say they're working to avoid what happened to a young man named Nick Stuban.

At the age of 15, Stuban committed suicide. In late 2010, he was caught buying synthetic marijuana at his northern Virginia school. Weeks of questioning by school administrators followed. They recommended he be expelled. In the early stages of that investigation, his father, Steve, had little idea what was going on.

"This is wrong. And it must be corrected," said Steve.

Steve Stuban says the investigation contributed to his son's suicide. So now, he's joining state lawmakers in support of four bills that would require immediate parental notification if a student gets in serious trouble.

Delegate Kaye Kory is one of the sponsors.

"The storm has now resulted in all of us here," Kory (D-Fairfax) said.

Critics say the bills would create an undue burden on school districts...which, currently, are left to their own discretion when it comes to notifying parents.

Supporters, including Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), say the bills create stronger partners.

"When we have a situation that could be a life changing event for a young person, that the parents are engaged immediately by the school system," he said.

Lawmakers have tried these types of bills before and failed. The difference now, they say, is the experience of a father who lost his son.

"Would it have made a significant difference in terms of our son's case? I think my early participation might have been able to…I can't even put into words how I feel about this," said Steve, holding back emotion.

Locally, Henrico and Chesterfield schools tell us that administrators are instructed to call parents for all disciplinary actions. When and how that notification takes place depends on the severity of the incident in question. A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bills put forth this year would create a standard policy for all Virginia public schools.

The bills will be debated in small committees this week. We'll keep you posted if they make it to a vote in the full House and Senate.

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