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The State of NoVa
Posted at 12:57 PM ET, 05/11/2011

Fairfax PTAs weigh in on school system disciplinary process


After Nick Hanna, 18, a senior at Marshall High School, was disciplined, he was turned down and wait-listed at colleges he applied to. (Susan Biddle for The Washington Post)
As Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale prepares to convene a meeting Monday to consider ways to amend the district’s disciplinary process, the Fairfax County Council of PTAs on Tuesday released its views on the subject. Those include opposing automatic involuntary transfers and using “language other than ‘Recommendation to Expel’” when referring a case to a disciplinary hearing.

The full set of recommendations, sent to Dale by Ramona Morrow, president of the council, came after months of meetings around the county with parents, “zero tolerance” advocates and school staff. You can read the complete memo after the jump.

The issue came to a head after two Fairfax teens committed suicide while dealing with the schools’ disciplinary system.

Dale also told school principals to host local dialogues on the issue of how to discipline students. Elizabeth Vandenburg, writing for the Vienna Patch, attended one of those meetings Monday night for parents of Madison High School and Thoreau Middle School students.

“These are not adults,” one parent said. “They will make mistakes and we need them to learn from them without breaking them.”

Vandenburg’s very fine story is here.

Dear School Board Members and Dr. Dale,

Thank you for hearing parent concerns and reviewing the Fairfax County Public Schools disciplinary system, its policies, practices, and procedures.  Members of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs (FCCPTA) have spent months drafting our position, including many hours of analysis and discussion by our Working Group on Discipline, Superintendent’s Parental Advisory Council (SPAC) meetings, our own General Membership Meeting, parent group meetings at individual schools, dialogue with Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform, conversations with concerned parents, meetings with staff, as well as attending your work sessions on this subject.  In the end, the FCCPTA Executive Board has undergone its own balanced, thoughtful, methodical approach to draft these recommendations.  We hope they serve as valuable tools as you move forward with study and improvements.

Recommendations for Implementation Before September 2011

Mandatory Process for Statutory Violations - We support policy for ten day suspension and hearing office deliberation for the 636 incidents reported in 2009-2010 and others like them.

Dr. Dale’s Recommendations - We support Dr. Dale’s 10 recommendations.  These are all common-sense recommendations that will help the disciplinary process immensely.

Transfers - We oppose the practice of reflexive or automatic involuntary transfers in addition to suspensions for the sole purpose of a greater punishment of statutory violations of drugs and weapons. 

Expulsion - We suggest the use of language other than “Recommendation to Expel” when students are referred to the Hearing Office for deliberation, and we request strengthening the alternatives (treatment, prevention programs, community service, etc.) as appropriate.

Parent Program - We support the concept that each school shall convene a parents program which focuses on information to help parents understand and participate comfortably in the process of administering and communicating rules and procedures related to behavior, discipline, and mental health.

Recommendations for Long-Term Improvement of the Disciplinary System

FCCPTA Executive Board urge you to make meaningful improvements to the disciplinary system for all students who undergo the Hearing Office process (636 incidents in 2009-2010), and, even more importantly, for all students who undergo a school-based consequence based on any unsafe or harmful behavior (68,794 incidents in 2009-2010) to do this;

Collect and report disaggregated data through a clear and transparent system while, of course, recording and reporting such data in a way that maintains confidentiality of the students.

Study and evaluate current policy and practices on an annual basis.

Identify the root causes of disproportionate impacts that are identified in particular groups of students, such as minority or special education students, and address them effectively.

Parental Involvement is a critical component of student behavior, and must be a critical part of all aspects of the discipline process, from policy-making to implementation.

Working in partnership with County resources, strengthen strong prevention techniques as a critical part of all disciplinary reforms, so fewer disciplinary processes will be needed.

Attached to this document you will find three (3) separate FCCPTA Executive Board resolutions adopted at our April and May board meetings. (Parental Notification, Reducing Disproportionality, and a comprehensive resolution on Discipline.) Also included in this communication,you will find the FCCPTA Report of FCPS Disciplinary System.  This document further explains our findings and beliefs.  I encourage you to take the time to review all these documents and FCCPTA positions and give considerate consideration in your May 16 work session discussion.

Thank you again for engaging parents in this important dialogue.  We look forward to working with you as we collaboratively work together with FCSB members and designated FCPS staff for all children of Fairfax County.

Regards,

 

Ramona Morrow, President

Fairfax County Council of PTAs

By  |  12:57 PM ET, 05/11/2011

Categories:  Fairfax County, Schools

 
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