Tag Archive: school to prison pipeline

  1. 2018 Legislative Session: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (Updated 3/2/2018)


    The commonwealth ranks among the top five states in the nation for referring students to law enforcement for school discipline issues. During the 2015‒2016 school year, Virginia schools issued over 131,500 out-of-school suspensions to over 70,000 individual students, representing an increase in the overall suspension rate for the second year in a row.

    In addition, students of color and students with disabilities were disproportionately suspended. Students who are suspended from school are more likely to experience academic failure, mental health problems, substance abuse, gang activity, and justice system involvement. Therefore, Voices supports school suspension reform and alternative discipline interventions as ways to reduce suspension rates and improve student behavior.

    Our partners at Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) are leading the charge in this area. LAJC published an update to its Suspended Progress Report in late 2017. Some of the highlights include:

    • Students with disabilities were suspended at rates 2.6 times higher than that of nondisabled students; African-American students were suspended at rates 3.8 times higher than Hispanic and white students.
    • The short-term suspension rate increased in 2015-2016 after years of significant, steady decline.
    • Virginia schools continue to suspend very young students at an astonishing rate, issuing over 17,300 short-term suspensions and at least 93 long-term suspensions just to children in pre-K through third grade.
    • The vast majority of all suspensions were issued for minor offenses, with approximately two-thirds of all suspensions issued for behavior offenses like possession of cell phones, minor insubordination, disrespect, and using inappropriate language.


    Bills We Support

    • Public schools; student discipline – SB170– Stanley – Prohibits students in preschool through grade three from being suspended or expelled except for drug offenses, firearm offenses, or certain criminal acts.
      • This bill has been amended to allow up to three days of suspension for students in pre-k to third grade with the option for superintendents to extend if there are aggravating circumstances. The amendment also directs the board of education to define aggravating circumstances.
      • Update: The bill passed out of the Senate and has been referred to the House Committee on Education where it received a favorable hearing as was supported unanimously and reported to the full House.
    • Public schools; student discipline – HB296 – Bell – Is identical to SB170.
      • This bill (did not include the amendments that were offered to SB170) died in full Education and Health.
    • Student Discipline; long term suspensionHB1600 – Bourne – Reduces the maximum length of a long-term suspension from 364 calendar days to 45 school days.
      • This bill was amended to add a long-term suspension that may extend beyond a 45-school-day period but can not exceed 364 calendar days if (i) the school board or division superintendent or his designee finds that aggravating circumstances exist, as defined by the local school board in a written policy, or (ii) the long-term suspension is preceded by another long-term suspension in the same school year.
      • A substitute was added in Senate Education and Health Subcommittee that would require the Board of Education to define “aggravating circumstances.”
      • Update: This bill has crossed over to the Senate and passed the full Senate. It will now be sent to the Governor’s desk for approval. 
    • Student Discipline; Alternative Education ProgramsHB688 – McQuinn – Requires local school boards to provide alternative education programs for suspended students.
      • This bill died in Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education. See you next year!
    • Places of confinement for juveniles – HB35 – Hayes – Provides that when juveniles who are determined by the court to be a threat to the security or safety of other juveniles detained in a juvenile-secure facility are transferred to or confined to a jail or other facility for the detention of adults, the adult detention facility must be approved by the State Board of Corrections for the detention of juveniles.
      • Update: This bill passed out of the House and the Senate and awaits the signature of the governor! 
    • Alternative student discipline; assault and battery without bodily injury – HB15 – Mullin – Requires a principal to first take appropriate alternative disciplinary action or determine that no such appropriate alternative disciplinary action exists before referring to the local law-enforcement agency student incidents of assault and assault and battery without bodily injury.
      • This bill died in House Courts of Justice. See you next year!

    Budget Items

    • Governor’s Budget – On Dec. 16, Gov. McAuliffe included $1 million toward the Virginia Tiered Systems of Support (VTSS)/Positive Behavior Interventions (PBIS). This is a direct investment in the Classrooms Not Courtrooms initiative by expanding this evidenced-based program to divisions with high rates of disciplinary offenses.
    • Budget Amendments
      • Alternatives to Student Suspension, Expulsion, and School-based Delinquency Charges- Item 135 #6s – $2.4 million, chief patron: McClellan, co-patron(s): Barker, Dunnavant, Locke, Reeves, Saslaw, Stanley, Sturtevant. This amendment increases the funding allocated for Virginia public schools implementing evidence-based and evidence-informed alternatives to school suspension, expulsion, and referrals of students to law enforcement. Update: The Senate budget did not include this amendment. 
      • Virginia’s Tiered Systems of Supports – Item 129 #4h – $250,000, chief patron: Peace, co-patron(s): Richard P. Bell, Carr, Delaney, Keam. This amendment adds $250,000 additional general funds to Virginia’s Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) for teachers, administrators, and specialized instructional support personnel. This programming addresses both the academic and behavioral needs of students, including students impacted by trauma; improves school climate; and reduces disruptive behavior in the classroom. Update: The House budget includes this funding. We encourage the Senate to support this funding in the budget agreement. 

    Check back to this page for weekly updates.

    In the News: 

    Bills seek to disrupt “school-to-prison pipeline” – Associated Press: Jan. 16, 2018. Note: This AP story ran in papers and news outlets across the country, including The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Seattle Times, The New York Daily, Sun Sentinel, My San Antonio, Emporia News, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Herald Courier, the ACLU website, and many others.

  2. 2017 Legislative Session Wrap-Up: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline

    Leave a Comment

    Updated February 27, 2017

    Virginia is the worst in the nation for referring students to law enforcement. During the 2014-15 school year, Virginia public schools issued over 126,000 out-of-school suspensions to approximately 70,000 individual students —an increase over 2013-14 figures, after at least four years of decline.

    In addition, students of color and students with disabilities were disproportionally suspended. Students who are suspended from school are more likely to experience academic failure, mental health problems, substance abuse, gang activity, and justice system involvement.

    We are disappointed to share that the two bills with companions in the House and the Senate crafted by our partners at the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center did not pass this session. The bills started a discussion about the school to prison pipeline and received  bi-partisan support after the release of JustChildren’s Suspensions report. Thank you to the more than 100 advocates who responded to our call to action! 

    The Bills 

    Senate Bill 995 (Stanley) – We supported this bill that originally redefined long-term suspension from 11-365 days to 11- 45 days. We continued to support it after concessions were made to extend the number of days to 60 school days and exceptions for certain school-based offenses.

    Result: This bill was defeated in the House on a 39 -56 vote, see you next year! 

    House Bill 1534 (Bell) – Originally identical to SB 995, the bill was amended to extend to 90 school days but did not allow for the days to be extended into a new calendar school year.

    Result: This bill was left in Senate Education and Health committee, which means that it died.

    Senate Bill 997 (Stanley): We supported this measure to protect our youngest children in school from  long-term suspension and expulsion for students in pre-k to 5th grade. After various substitutes, the bill would have allowed for suspension up to 10 school days for children pre-k to 3rd grade and granted exceptions to suspend longer for “260G offenses” defined in the Code of Virginia.

    Result: This bill was defeated on the House floor on a 46 – 50 vote, see you next year! 

    House Bill 1536 (Bell): Originally identical to SB997, the bill would have allowed for up 5 school days for children pre-k to 3rd grade.

    Result: This bill entered into conference (when the Speaker and Lt. Governor appoints a small committee made up of House and Senate legislators to resolve disagreements on a particular bill) but no further action was taken, essentially killing the bill.

    Voices will continue to work to dismantle the school to prison pipeline. If you or your organization wants to get involved, please contact Allison at allison@vakids.org and follow our juvenile justice work page. 



  3. Social Work Advocacy Day takes on School Discipline Reform & Foster Care

    1 Comment

    On February 9th, the National Association of Social Workers – Virginia Chapter hosted its annual Student Advocacy Day. More than 300 students and professional social workers from all across Virginia made there prescence known in the General Assembly building by speaking with legislators about pressing issues that are important to social work.

    The day was a success in large part due to the commitment of faculty in the Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social to ensure students were prepped prior to advocacy day. Voices was honored to assist in the preparation of students to speak with legislators about bills targeting the school to prison pipeline and supporting children in the child welfare system.

    Many of the students spoke in support of kinship guardianship assistance and reducing school discipline days from both a personal experience in the child welfare system and as a social work professional working with children who could be directly impacted by the proposed legislation.

    You can still take action by writing a letter to your Senator or Delegate in support of dismantling the school to prison pipeline.

    Here are some of the highlights on the day:

    I feel really lucky to be here, I didn’t think I would by lobbying at the General Assembly my first year in the social work program – Rebecca Decamp, VCU Student

    I was inspired by how many social workers are invested in the policy process.  I could see that they were all keenly aware that policies have a real and tangible impact on the quality of people’s every day lives, and that we must be active participants in the process rather than leaving such important decisions to the very few who hold positions of power.  Being part Social Work Advocacy Day made me want to get more involved. – Michael Massey, VCU Student

    Today helped us prepare for our roles in advocacy as a future social worker – Liz, VCU Student/UMFS Intern

    I enjoyed sharing this experience with my social work peers and hope even more students participate next year – Sophia Booker, VCU Student/Voices Intern

    Today was fantastic because it gave us an understanding of the hustle and bustle that lobbyist go through and how important it is to know the ins and outs of the bill your advocating for including the opposing views – Tiffany Padden, VCU Student/Communities in Schools

    It’s hard to know how individuals can get involved to get your voice heard so today was great because I learned we do have access to our representatives and they do care what we have to say – Betsy Hudson, VCU Student

  4. Transforming the Juvenile Justice System 2017 Legislative Session (Updated 1/27)


    Updated: January 27, 2017

    We believe the current juvenile justice system’s use of large juvenile prisons does not make our communities safer or rehabilitate our youth, and the current system does not use best practices to put youth on a path toward law-abiding lives. The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice is making strides to transform this system for those reasons. Along with the RISE for Youth Coalition we will monitor how funds might be used to construct more juvenile detention facilities and advocate for those dollars to be reinvested to in community-based alternatives. Check back here for weekly updates.

    In addition to transforming the juvenile justice system, we believe that we have to stop the funnel of children entering the system by dismantling the school to prison pipeline. Virginia is the worst in nation for referring students to law enforcement. During the 2012 – 2013 academic school year 27,568 students were suspended and of that 16,019 were elementary school students. In addition, students of color and students with disabilities were disproportionally suspended. Students who are suspended from school are more likely to experience academic failure, mental health problems, substance abuse, gang activity, and justice system involvement, according to research.

    The Advocacy day for Rise for Youth was Monday, January 18th. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam hosted us for a kick-off breakfast. Members of the coalition and youth directly impacted by the juvenile justice system shared their experiences with the general assembly and asked specifically for money saved from closing youth prisons be reinvested into a continuum of alternative services. Youth highlighted positive experiences at organizations like Art 180, that work with teens in the juvenile justice system, in partnership with Legal Aid Justice Center, to connect the dots between creative expression and advocacy.


    Voices will  support these three bills from our partners at Just Children:

    • Reduce the maximum length of a long-term suspension: House Bill 1534/Senate Bill 995 – This bill would reduce the maximum length of a long-term suspension from 364 calendar days to 45 school days. The bill prohibits a long-term suspension from extending beyond the current grading period unless aggravating circumstances exist and prohibits a long-term suspension from extending beyond the current school year. Senate Bill 995 went back to subcommittee for a second review, passed unanimously, and will be heard in the full Senate Education and Health.


    • Prohibit schools from suspending or expelling students solely for disruptive behavior: House Bill 1535/Senate Bill 996 – This bill would make it so that no student can receive a long-term suspension or expulsion for disruptive behavior (ie. talking loudly, sleeping, phone ringing, etc.) unless such behavior involves intentional physical injury or credible threat of physical injury to another person. Senate Bill 996 went back to subcommittee for a second review and was then stricken by request of of the Patron. HB 1535 was layed on the table at the request of the Patron.  


    • Prohibit students in preschool through fifth grade from being suspended or expelled: House Bill 1536/Senate Bill 997  – This bill would prohibit students in preschool through grade five from being suspended or expelled except for drug offenses, firearm offenses, or certain criminal acts. Senate Bill 997 went back to subcommittee for a second review and passed (4-1). It will be taken up in full Senate Education and Health. 

    Budget Amendments:

    Item 132 #1h – Comprehensive Evaluation of School Discipline Practices – This amendment provides $50,000 the second year from the general fund to the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of restorative practices and other similar approaches used by Virginia school divisions to address school discipline, school-based arrest, and school climate issues.

    Item 415 #1s – Department of Juvenile Justice – This amendment acknowledges the closure and sale of Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center.