Henrico school leaders looking at changes to student discipline - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Henrico school leaders looking at changes to student discipline code

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Henrico school leaders are taking a hard look at how your children are being disciplined at school. A proposal is set to go before the board to re-examine punishments and administrators want to hear from parents.

The document being examined is the Community Code of Conduct. It lays out significant changes in the upcoming school year and gives administrators more flexibility when it comes to deciding consequences for students who misbehave.

For some time, school leaders have come to the realization that the time doesn't always fit the crime.

"There have been principals who have said my hands are tied, you have a reefer in your pocket, I have to recommend you to expulsion," said Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12's education specialist.

Now, Henrico schools just released a 70-page document that will change the student discipline code. Right now this is just a proposal, however.

"Zero tolerance is such an absolute, but what I think they're trying to do is bring definition to it," said Bosher.

According to the proposal, before a student is disciplined an administrator must look at a list of things to determine what to do when that child misbehaves. That includes the student's special education status, the student's understanding of the impact of their behavior and whether "a lesser intervention" could address the violation.

The proposal also addresses different punishments based on age. For example if an elementary school student brought a knife to school, they could be suspended from one to five days. A high school student could be suspended up to 10 days.

Some parents agree on deciding the consequences on a case by case basis.
"Each student is different, and the way they behave, for sure. One child could have ADHD, the other doesn't, so, yeah, definitely they should be handled differently," said Heather Hinceman, mother of a Sandston Elementary School student.

But the flexibility could bring some backlash. "Many might interpret this to be a softening of the school system's behavior on discipline," said Bosher. "It can be, but it need not be. It can be if principals are tough on discipline, teachers are tough on discipline, families are tough on discipline then the consequences could be the same."

The proposal also gives options on other types of discipline including mentoring, loss of privileges and community services.

Henrico schools spokesperson Andy Jenks said this is a community effort. "By engaging all stakeholders, we can work together toward the common goal of supporting students to meet these expectations, and clarifying consequences when the expectations are not met," he said.

The school board is inviting everyone to a public meeting on the proposed changes. It's Tuesday, June 3, at 5 p.m. at the New Bridge auditorium on at 5915 Nine Mile Road. You can also leave a comment about the proposal online.

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