SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 45
March 10, 2000
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.