The Washington Post

Virginia Supreme Court backs Loudoun schools in discipline case

The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday chimed in on Virginia’s ongoing school discipline debate, ruling that 11 Loudoun County students caught drinking alcohol on a school trip to France should be suspended, as the School Board decided in 2009, shortly after the incident occurred.

The parents of those Dominion High School students urged the School Board to reconsider the decision, claiming that their children were denied due process. The mother of one student, Eileen Tagg-Murdock, took the school system to court to clear her daughter’s record of the suspension. A Loudoun Circuit Court judge agreed in March 2010 that the school system’s decision was excessive, but an appeal sent the case to the state Supreme Court — and led, months later, to today’s decision.

The case hinges on the nature of the suspension and the students’ ability to appeal the punishment to the School Board. In Loudoun students and their families can appeal “long-term suspensions,” which are over 10 days, at the School Board level, but not shorter stints. Tagg-Murdock claimed her daughter’s suspension constituted a long-term suspension; the court disagreed.

The case raises questions about a disciplinary policy that some parents call inflexible and excessive.

Tagg-Murdock told Leesburg Today that the the court’s decision is “empowering the school systems to violate the law and walk all over its citizens.”

Kevin Sieff has been The Post’s bureau chief in Nairobi since 2014. He served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and had covered the U.S. -Mexico border.

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