COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P. O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120

SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 57
March 8, 1996

INFORMATIONAL

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: William C. Bosher, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Expulsion or Suspension of Students for Firearms or Weapons


  The 1995 General Assembly enacted Gun Free Schools
  legislation, adding 22.1-277.01 of the Code of Virginia to
  require expulsion from school, for not less than one year,
  of any student who was determined to have brought a firearm
  to school.  That legislation defined firearm as any weapon
  prohibited on school property or at a school-sponsored
  activity pursuant to 18.2-308.1 of the Code of Virginia or
  the federal definition of firearm as set forth in 18 U.S.C.
  921.  Interpretive Superintendent's Memo #2 was issued in
  July 1995 to assist in its implementation.
  
  In 1996, the General Assembly was asked to consider
  legislation to amend 22.1-277.01 to address a specific
  incident that occurred in one of our local divisions.  A
  student was suspended for having a toy water gun in his car
  on school property.  It appears that, when pressed
  concerning their action, the local school board indicated
  that this action was at least in part required by state law,
  specifically 22.1-277.01.
  
  The legislators hearing this testimony also were told that
  this suspension must be reported on college applications and
  may cost the student admission to the college of his choice. 
  Several members of the committee, which supported passage
  last year of the Gun Free School Law, stated that suspension
  under these circumstances was never their intent in enacting
  the legislation and that these consequences were far greater
  than the offense merited.  The legislation has been carried
  over to the 1997 session for further review, with my
  agreement to share this information with you.
  
  Please be advised that 22.1-277.01 requires the expulsion
  of a student who has been determined to have brought a
  firearm to school. The law specifically defines firearm at
  subsection D as
  
  
     any weapon prohibited on school property or at a
     school-sponsored activity pursuant to 18.2-308.1, or
     (i) any weapon, including a starter gun, which will, or
     is designed or may readily be converted to, expel a
     projectile by the action of an explosive; (ii) the
     frame or receiver of any such weapon: (iii) any firearm
     muffler or firearm silencer; or (iv) any destructive
     device.
  
  Certainly, local school boards have the authority to
  establish local policies in this area that exceed state law,
  including the prohibition of water guns on school property.
  There is also the role of judgement in these and all matters
  of school safety and student discipline. 
  
  Correspondingly, the General Assembly may feel that this
  authority needs to be limited and judgement prescribed,
  particularly if additional such cases come to their
  attention over the next year. When the General Assembly
  reconsiders the bill in the 1997 session, they may decide
  that HB 1530 needs to be enacted.  I have attached a copy of
  the bill for your information.  In postponing action on the
  bill, the House Committee on Education requested that I
  communicate to you their desire that good judgement prevail
  in these circumstances where no danger is posed to school
  safety but significant damage can be done to a student's
  reputation.
  
  By copy of this memorandum, I am sharing this sense of the
  Assembly committee with the chairman of your local school
  board. I hope that it will generate some discussion by your
  board on this matter.
  
  For additional information on this bill, please contact Lin
  Corbin-Howerton at (804) 225-2543.  Local school boards may
  receive additional information or assistance from the
  Virginia School Boards Association on this matter.
  
  
  WCBJr/lch
  
  cc.  The Honorable J. Paul Councill, Jr., Chairman
       House Committee on Education
  
       The Honorable Alan A. Diamonstein, Chairman
       Standards of Quality Subcommittee,
       House Committee on Education
  
       Chairmen, Local School Boards
  
       Mr. Frank E. Barham, Executive Director
       Virginia School Boards Association