FCPS Makes Changes To Student Rights and Responsibilities

South Lakes High SchoolFairfax County Public Schools will begin the 2014-15 school year with several changes to the Student Rights and Responsibilities regulations.

The FCPS school board approved the changes at a meeting last week. The SR&R is the guideline for school system rules and the consequences for violating them. All students must sign it each year.

Among the changes:

  • Reducing the number of offenses which carry mandated consequences.
  • Extending expedited review to first time use of marijuana which does not occur on school grounds during the school day or during school-sponsored activities.
  • Adding smoking devices such as electronic cigarettes and hookah pens under “tobacco products.”

“The changes to the SR&R were made to better align with best practices, to reduce suspensions, and to include changes that have been made to the Code of Virginia,” School Board Chairman Ilryong Moon said in a news release. “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.

“However, serious infractions will still be dealt with in a manner that protects students and staff.”

FCPS discipline processes have been under review the last several years, in part because public pressure after suicides of two high school students who had been or were going through the discipline process for minor drug possession violations.

In 2011, the process was essentially overhauled, with additional changes to the SR&R being voted in by the school board in years following.

Other changes coming in 2014-15:

  • Increased focus on school-based interventions, changing “recommendation for reassignment” and “recommendation for expulsion” to “referral to the Division Superintendent.”
  • Limiting suspensions for violations which are not being referred to the Division Superintendent to a maximum of five days, and permitting principals to take action other than referral to the Division Superintendent when a student self-reports and voluntarily turns in a knife or other non-statutory weapon.
  • Eliminating the requirement of a 10-day suspension when there is a referral to the Division Superintendent and instead, permitted this based on circumstances.
  • A record review process by a cluster assistant superintendent (which will change to a regional assistant superintendent) to address chronic misconduct.
  • A record review for students in K-6 before referral to the Division Superintendent for chronic misconduct.
  • There will now be principal documentation of investigations of bullying and a reporting of all allegations of sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment to the FCPS office of Equity and Employee Relations.
  • Clarification of the need to have a note to leave school early and to include the description of the use, in certain circumstances, of a letter of agreement from the Superintendent.

The School Board said it will collect data each semester on all first-time possession and/or use of marijuana cases. The data will include the total number of expedited written record reviews, disciplinary hearings, school reassignments, and recidivism rates.

Superintendent Karen Garza agreed to provide the School Board with the following data for each semester: how many students were suspended out-of-school; how many were suspended in-school; and how many were not suspended, out of the aggregate number of students referred to the Superintendent for violating the SR&R.

The amended Student Rights and Responsibilities will be published in time for the 2014-15 school year.  The current SR&R can be found on the FCPS website.

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