Fairfax holds hearing on school discipline policies

The Fairfax County School Board started a comprehensive review of school discipline policies Monday morning, in the aftermath of the suicide of a 15-year-old football player from W.T. Woodson High School.

School board members did not address the suicide directly but brought up dozens of discipline issues to probe in the weeks ahead — proportionality of punishments, time spent out of classes, mental health support, requirements of state law.

“That was huge progress,” Board Member Martina Hone said after the session. “That was us publicly stating there’s a lot to review.”

The two-hour meeting did not allow for public comment, but the meeting room was filled to its capacity of 102 people, including parents, activists and Fairfax schools staff.

Woodson athlete Nick Stuban was found dead Jan. 20, after struggling with the protracted fallout of a disciplinary infraction at his Fairfax high school. The teenager was suspended from Woodson last Nov. 3 after admitting to buying one capsule of JWH-O18, a synthetic compound with marijuana-like effects. It was legal in Virginia at the time.

His father, Steve Stuban, attended the session and was seated with family members and his pastor.

Afterward, Steve Stuban said he was pleased that a first step was taken toward improving discipline practices but wished that officials had stopped the practice of mandatory school transfers while larger issues were being deliberated.

He also he had hoped the board would decide to begin taping or fully transcribing disciplinary hearings, which critics have described as unduly adversarial.

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