The father of a Fairfax County high school student whose suicide drew attention to school disciplinary policies came to Richmond Monday to advocate for bills requiring that parents be notified sooner when their children are accused of wrongdoing at school.
Nick Stuban, a W.T. Woodson High School student and football player, took his own life in January 2011, in the aftermath of school disciplinary proceedings. He’d been accused of buying JWH-018, a synthetic compound with a marijuana-like effect.
School officials had questioned him for days, notifying his parents only afterward with the news that he was being suspended with a recommendation for expulsion, said his father, Steven Stuban.
The case drew attention last year to what critics said was an unduly harsh disciplinary code and prompted Steven Stuban to run for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board in November. He lost.
Legislation inspired by the case failed last year, but advocates are back with new bills in the current General Assembly session.
The House last year unanimously passed a bill requiring that parents be notified at the outset if their children are suspected of an offense that could lead to their suspension or expulsion.
But the bill died in the Senate at the behest of teachers and administrators, who feared they could be sued if they were unable to reach parents, said Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax), who sponsored the legislation in the House.
Steven Stuban said he was “stunned” by that defeat. But he was back in Richmond to promote new bills aimed at improving parental notification.
Kory has proposed legislation similar to what she introduced last year, though with language that she said makes it clear that school administrators, not teachers, would be responsible for trying to reach parents. Administrators would have to make a good-faith effort to notify parents, she said, but could not be sued if they were unable to reach them.
Her new legislation also attempts to clarify when parents must be contacted. Last year, Kory sought to have parents notified if the student was suspected of an offense that could result in suspension or expulsion. Critics called that standard vague. Her new bill would require that parents be alerted if their child is accused of violating the school’s code of conduct or school board policy.
Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax) and Del. Timothy Hugo (D-Fairfax) also have proposed legislation with similar aims.