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

SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 45
March 10, 2000

INFORMATIONAL

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: JoLynne DeMary
Acting Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Criteria for Character Education


 Senate Bill 817, passed by the 1999 General Assembly, amended 22.1-208.01 of the 
Code of Virginia to require that each local school board establish a character 
education program and that the Board of Education establish criteria for character 
education programs. 

At its meeting on February 24, on final review, the Board of Education approved the 
attached criteria, which were developed by a committee of parents, teachers, and 
administrators to guide school divisions in establishing and evaluating character 
education programs. A copy of the referenced statute, 22.1-208.01, is also attached 
for your convenience.  Questions about this initiative may be referred to 
Mr. James P. Ashton, Office of Compensatory Education at 804/225-2897.

JLD/hdc

Attachments
                              CHARACTER EDUCATION

Preamble

Senate Bill 817, passed by the 1999 General Assembly, requires each local school 
board to establish a character education program in its schools, the aim of which 
is to improve the learning environment, promote student achievement, reduce 
disciplinary problems and develop civic-minded students of high character.  The bill 
also requires that the Virginia Board of Education establish criteria for such 
programs consistent with the provisions of the bill.  

Criteria

The Board of Education has established the following criteria for character 
education programs.

Each local character education program shall:

1. Be developed in cooperation with the students, parents, and the community at 
large.

2. Specify those character traits to be taught, selecting from those which are 
common to diverse social, cultural, and religious groups (see Appendix A for a 
possible list).

3. Avoid indoctrination of any religious or political belief.

4. Be implemented at the elementary and secondary levels.

5. Complement the state Standards of Learning, be interwoven into existing curricula
and taught primarily by example, illustration, and participation.

6. Provide for relevant professional development and adequate resources.

7. Include a method for program evaluation.

See also: The Guidelines Concerning Religious Activity in the Public Schools, 
adopted June 22, 1995, by the Board of Education, for a more in-depth discussion of 
the constitutional rights and restrictions relating to prayer and other religious 
expression in the public schools, including the duties of school authorities 
relating to the constitutional freedoms of individual speech and religious 
expression and the relationship with the constitutional prohibition against 
establishing religion in the public schools.

Appendix A

SB 817 states that the basic character traits taught may include:

trustworthiness, including honesty, integrity, reliability, and loyalty;

respect, including the precepts of the Golden Rule, tolerance, and courtesy;

responsibility, including hard work, economic self-reliance, accountability, 
diligence, perseverance and self-control;

fairness, including justice, consequences of bad behavior,  principles of 
consideration, generosity, and charity; and

citizenship, including patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance, respect for the 
American flag, concern for the common good, respect for authority and the law, and 
community-mindedness.



                  22.1-208.01  Character Education Required

            Excerpted from the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended



 22.1-208.01  Character education required 

A. Each school board shall establish, within its existing programs, a character 
education program in its schools. The purpose of the character education program 
shall be to instill in students civic virtues and personal character traits so as 
to improve the learning environment, promote student achievement, reduce 
disciplinary problems, and develop civic-minded students of high character. The 
components of each program shall be developed in cooperation with the students, 
their parents, and the community at large. The basic character traits taught may 
include (i) trustworthiness, including honesty, integrity, reliability, and loyalty;
 (ii) respect, including the precepts of the Golden Rule, tolerance, and courtesy; 
(iii) responsibility, including hard work, economic self-reliance, accountability, 
diligence, perseverance, and self-control; (iv) fairness, including justice, 
consequences of bad behavior, principles of nondiscrimination, and freedom from 
prejudice; (v) caring, including kindness, empathy, compassion, consideration, 
generosity, and charity; and (vi) citizenship, including patriotism, the Pledge of 
Allegiance, respect for the American flag, concern for the common good, respect for 
authority and the law, and community-mindedness. 

Classroom instruction may be used to supplement a character education program; 
however, each program shall be interwoven into the school procedures and environment
and structured to instruct primarily through example, illustration, and 
participation, in such a way as to complement the Standards of Learning. 

This provision is intended to educate students regarding those core civic values and 
virtues which are efficacious to civilized society and are common to the diverse 
social, cultural, and religious groups of the Commonwealth. Nothing herein shall be 
construed as requiring or authorizing the indoctrination in any particular religious 
or political belief. 

B. The Board of Education shall establish criteria for character education programs,
consistent with the provisions of this section. To assist school divisions in 
implementing character education programs and practices that are designed to promote 
the development of personal qualities as set forth in this section and the Standards
of Quality and that will improve family and community involvement in the public 
schools, the Board of Education shall also establish, within the Department of 
Education, the Commonwealth Character Initiative. The Board shall provide resources 
and technical assistance to school divisions regarding successful character education 
programs and shall (i) identify and analyze effective character education programs 
and practices and (ii) collect and disseminate among school divisions information 
regarding such programs and practices and potential funding and support sources. The
Board may also provide resources supporting professional development for 
administrators and teachers in the delivery of any character education programs. 

C. The Board of Education shall award, with such funds as are appropriated for this 
purpose, grants to school boards for the implementation of innovative character 
education programs.