Fairfax School Board approves softer discipline rules, shorter suspensions

The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously late Thursday to reduce punishments and shorten most suspensions by half for students who commit certain offenses, beginning next fall.

The comprehensive revision of the school system’s discipline policies will likely lead to fewer suspensions overall, cutting the number of infractions that require time out of school.

“The adopted changes emphasize the School Board’s desire to keep students in class by promoting alternative forms of discipline and reducing the length of suspension for certain offenses,” School Board Chair Ilryong Moon (At Large) said in a statement.

The new rules will result in most suspensions lasting five days or less and will promote keeping students in class to learn from their mistakes. Principals will also be granted more discretion for how to handle students’ discipline cases.

For example, students who are caught cheating on exams or selling non-prescription drugs will now receive a five-day suspension, instead of the former 10-day punishment.

The revisions come almost a year after the School Board approved a broad revision of the discipline guidelines, known as the student rights and responsibilities handbook.

Garza, who joined the school system in July, had told parents in a series of introductory meetings that she had planned to continue to overhaul the student discipline process, looking for ways to keep the rules evolving with current trends.

For instance, the new rules will include e-cigarettes, hookah pens and other similar so-called “vape” devices increasingly popular with teens to a list of prohibited tobacco-related items.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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