Fairfax school board votes to postpone discipline debate
Nick Stuban, a high school football player who committed suicide amid the fallout of a disciplinary infraction.
Last June, the board adopted a wide-ranging discipline overhaul. In the fall, six new members were elected to the 12-member board. Supporters of change had hoped for a new wave of reform.
But Thursday night, after a flurry of work on proposals over several days, the ideas were shelved. A special committee was created to examine the code of conduct and report back by March.
The five members who opposed the delay were Evans, Megan McLaughlin (Braddock), Dan Storck (Mount Vernon), Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill) and Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield).
After the vote, McLaughlin’s voice broke as she recalled Stuban and Josh Anderson, 17, a Fairfax student who took his life in 2009, shortly before his second disciplinary hearing.
Both teens, she contended, would have benefited from approaches in Montgomery County or Arlington County, where she said discipline is based in core values that include “a logical consequence” and “a chance to start anew.”
Board member Patty Reed (Providence) called for a deeper discussion of the issue but urged that it be timely. “If we are doing something wrong, I don’t want to do it wrong for another year,” she said.
Steven Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said his 4,000-member organization backs the idea of parental notification, as long as the contacts are handled by administrators, not teachers.
“As a parent,” he added, “I would absolutely hope someone would contact me immediately and let me know there’s a situation.”
Outside of Fairfax, several lawyers and educators were surprised.
“I thought this was going to be the world’s easiest vote,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who noted that schools call home when children are tardy or need aspirin. Discipline is far more serious — and could lead to arrest or police referral, he said.
“The simple requirement of informing parents would have protected core rights of both the students and the parents,” he said.
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