Skip to Content

### Democrats and Republicans Clash on Best Strategies for Managing School Disruptions

Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly have been at odds during this session regarding the approach to managing disruptive student behavior. Democrats are moving forward with legislation aimed at reducing suspensions and expulsions to prevent students from entering the school-to-prison pipeline. Conversely, Republicans have advocated for a more uniform disciplinary system and stricter penalties, but their efforts have not succeeded.

Del. Delores McQuinn, representing D-Richmond, and Sen. Stella Pekarsky, representing D-Fairfax, are championing the suspension legislation. They argue that school divisions should explore alternative methods of addressing disruptive behavior instead of resorting to immediate removal from classrooms.

McQuinn emphasized the importance of finding solutions to these pressing issues to avoid negative outcomes like incarceration and mortality. She highlighted the necessity of proactive measures to address these challenges effectively.

Pekarsky clarified that the proposed changes do not intend to eliminate disciplinary actions but rather encourage the adoption of consistent best practices in handling student behavior across educational institutions.

On the other hand, Republicans have raised concerns that leniency in discipline could perpetuate disruptions in classrooms and hinder students’ learning experiences. Their proposal for a more rigid disciplinary approach, including involving law enforcement in cases of disorderly conduct, did not gain traction.

The debate surrounding disproportionate suspensions and expulsions has been ongoing, with Virginia standing out for its high rate of student referrals to the justice system. Studies have indicated that students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harsh disciplinary measures, leading to calls for reform in handling behavioral issues.

Recent findings have underscored the disparities faced by Black students and those with disabilities in terms of school disciplinary actions. Efforts are being made to implement restorative practices and provide necessary support to address these disparities and promote a more inclusive and effective disciplinary framework.

McQuinn and Pekarsky’s legislation focuses on promoting restorative practices and ensuring that disciplinary actions are proportionate and conducive to students’ growth and development. By prioritizing alternatives to suspension and expulsion, the aim is to foster a positive learning environment and equip students with conflict resolution skills.

The contrasting viewpoints between Democrats and Republicans reflect the ongoing discussions on how best to address student behavior issues while maintaining a conducive learning environment. As the legislative session progresses, the fate of these proposed bills will be determined, shaping the future of student discipline in Virginia.