SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 57
March 8, 1996
|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