NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Republican lawmakers are asking for the governor to veto a bill that would end a requirement for schools to report all crimes that occur on school property to law-enforcement.
On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates approved 46-44 the Senate’s changes to House Bill 257. The bill, sponsored by Del. Mike Mullin, (D-Newport News), allows school principals and superintendents to decide whether or not to report to law enforcement crimes that would be considered misdemeanors committed by students on school grounds or property.
Crimes falling under the bill include assault and battery that results in bodily injury, sexual assault, death, shooting, stabbing, cutting, or wounding of any person, according to the bill. Stalking, threats, firearm, drug and alcohol violations are also included.
If a student is accused of one of the above, they would still face school disciplinary action.
A legislative aid from Mullin’s office told 10 On Your Side that the point of the legislation was to not criminalize the minor crimes that may be committed by someone with special needs, such as destruction of property.
The bill requires parents of any children involved to be notified in all cases, and any abuse must still be reported to the local department of social services.
While nearly half of the state’s Republican senators supported the bill when it passed the Senate, House Republicans are urging Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to exercise his veto power.
“House Democrats today adopted a policy that will make our students, teachers, and school personnel significantly less safe,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) in a statement. “Administrators should have some leeway over when to involve law enforcement in disciplinary problems — but instances of sexual battery, stalking, and threats and against teachers and staff are not ‘discipline problems.’ They are serious crimes with real problems that need to be investigated and prosecuted.”
The legislation has the support of the Virginia Education Association, Virginia School Board Association, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals and the Legal Aid Justice Center.
“This legislation is about removing the zero-tolerance policies that push too many students into the criminal justice system, particularly our minority students,” said VEA President Jim Livingston in a statement. “It’s time we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to reporting and tap into the experience and expertise of our front-line school principals.”
Virginia Beach School Board member Vicki Manning feels the law doesn’t help an already lack of trust in the disciplinary process.
“I hear from teachers and parents on a regular basis, sharing their concerns about student discipline problems in our schools,” Manning said. “To me, the victims are going to be further victimized under this bill and the perpetrators are going to be emboldened.”
Manning feels to properly train students for the real world, they should face real world consequences.
The bill now must be signed by both the House speaker and lieutenant governor before heading to the governor’s desk.
The governor’s office did not respond with comment on the bill by the time of this article’s publication Monday.
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