Saturday, January 22, 2011

Has School Discipline Gone Too Far?

The Washington Post today reported that a sophomore at Woodson High apparently committed suicide after being subject to some undisclosed school disciplinary action. The story implies that the Fairfax County School District’s disciplinary policies are too harsh, quoting one parent as saying the schools treat students committing even minor infractions “like the Una bomber.”

Tragic incidents often raise questions of the type raised by the Post – and justifiably so in this case. I don’t mean to imply that the school’s disciplinary actions caused the poor boy’s death, but even a quick glance at the student codes of both Fairfax County and Loudoun County reveals extreme, vague and inconsistent policies. For example, a student can be expelled for bringing Advil or a cap gun to school (nothing new there, but still ridiculous). In fact, in Loudoun, a student shall be expelled for bringing in any substance “believed to be capable of affecting the brain.” Guess that would include . . . well . . . food. In Fairfax, a kid can be expelled if the principle thinks the student may make a threat of violence. On the other hand, there’s no expulsion for students in either county who appear at school under the influence. Oh, noo. They’re just sent off to rehab.

No policy is perfect, but the threat of expulsion should not loom for every schoolyard scuffle. These policies are patently unreasonable, unworkable and unjustifiable, and sorely in need of substantial revision.

Cross-posted to

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