School officials would have to promptly notify the parents of students suspected of serious wrongdoing at school under a bill that cleared the Virginia Senate on Monday.
The bill, inspired by the suicide of a Fairfax County high school student in the aftermath of disciplinary proceedings last year, passed the chamber 40 to 0.
Nick Stuban, a W.T. Woodson High School student and football player, took his 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, who’d come to Richmond this year to lobby for several bills intended to soften what critics called an unduly harsh disciplinary code.
It is by no means certain that the bill, filed by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), will become law. A similar bill filed in the House by Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) stalled in a subcommittee this month.
Petersen’s bill would require that school officials notify parents “as soon as practicable” when students face disciplinary proceedings that could result in their suspension, expulsion or the notification of law enforcement.
Kory’s ill-fated House bill would have required that parents be notified whenever a student is suspected of violating school board policy.
Also Monday, the House and Senate passed a pair of bills meant to help school officials come to the aid of students with severe allergic reactions.
Know as the “EpiPen bills,” the measures would direct local school boards to establish policies for keeping epinephrine pens on hand at every school, so that a school nurse, employee or trained volunteer could administer it to any student thought to be having an anaphylactic reaction.
The bills, sponsored by Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun), specified that in the event that someone sued over use of an epinephrine pen, school employees could not be held liable for civil damages so long as they had acted in good faith.
The House also voted to advance a bill that would provide tax credits for corporations that provide private school scholarships to low-income students. The bill has strong support from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), a proponent of school choice. There is opposition from teachers’ groups, who fear it will open the door to private-school vouchers for parents.
The bill is expected to get a final vote Tuesday.