Henrico school's changes to student discipline code put on hold - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Henrico school's changes to student discipline code put on hold

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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

More time. That's what Henrico School Board leaders say they need before making major changes to how students are disciplined. The "Community Code of Conduct" aims for more flexibility when administrators need to discipline a student.

But for now, it's on hold and not everyone is happy with the board's decision.

The Legal Aid Justice Center, which represents low income families, helped put this proposal together.  They this was a chance for Henrico schools to be a national model in school discipline.  The center also says it could have reduced the racial disparity in the school system. It's been well document that more African American students in Henrico are suspended compared to other races.

"My program is very disappointed," says Jeree Thomas a lawyer who works for the JustChildren Legal Aid Justice Center.  Some of their clients include Henrico students from low income families fighting suspension or expulsion.  "We've been working for over a year with the assistant superintendents on improving their school discipline practices," she said.

The document is a 70-page overhaul of discipline practices at Henrico's schools, but the school board now says it wants more time to review the proposed changes.

"These are children's lives and there are thousands of children that are impacted in Henrico by their code of conduct --impacted in a negative way," says Thomas.

The proposed code of conduct gives school administrators more flexibility when it comes to discipline, suggests specific consequences for different age groups and provides ideas for intervention to prevent future rule breaking.  Thomas says some programs have already been put in place at a number of schools.

But the school board says talks to implement these big changes will happen over time.

"There needs to be a little bit more time and more deliberate review, a line by line, page by page inspection of what we have going on," says Henrico schools spokesperson Andy Jenks.

Jenks says there could be some changes to the discipline code in the upcoming school year.

"It doesn't mean it's going away it just means we're going to continue to open this process up to public feedback in hopes of getting the best possible document ready," he said.

Jenks says many board members hoped these changes could happen in the 2015-2016 school year.  The Legal Aid Justice Center says it will continue to work with the school system.

You can tell the Henrico school leaders what you think of the proposed discipline code online. 

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