P.O. BOX 2120




April 18, 2003



Division Superintendents



Jo Lynne DeMary

Superintendent of Public Instruction



Unsafe School Choice Option


The Unsafe School Choice Option requires each state that receives funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, (SEC.9532) to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students who attend a persistently dangerous school or become victims of violent crimes on the grounds of a school they attend be allowed to attend a safe school within the same division. To satisfy this new requirement, states must:


1.  Establish a state Unsafe School Choice Option policy.

2.  Identify persistently dangerous schools.

3.  Identify types of offenses that are considered to be violent criminal offenses.

4.  Provide a safe public school choice option.

5.  Include a certification of compliance in applications for ESEA funds.


The Virginia Board of Educations statewide policy dealing with the above issue was adopted on May 23, 2002. The policy adopted by the board incorporated state legislation that addresses students attending a persistently dangerous school or becoming a victim of a violent criminal offense while in or on the grounds of a public school. The purpose is to provide those students with the opportunity to attend a safe public school within the local educational agency.


As stated in 22.1-3.3 of the Code of Virginia:


Whenever any student has been the victim of any crime against the person pursuant to Chapter 4 (18.2-30 et seq.) of Title 18.2, and such crime was committed by another student attending classes in the school, or by any employee of the school board, or by a volunteer, contract worker or other person who regularly performs services in the school or if the crime was committed upon school property or on any school bus owned or operated by the school division, the student upon whom the crime was committed, shall, upon written request from the students parent, or the student, if such student is an emancipated minor, be permitted by the relevant school board to transfer to another comparable school within the school division, if available. Any transportation services for such students shall be provided in accordance with school board policies.


On March 26, 2003, the Board of Education considered for first review proposed Process and Criteria for Identification of Persistently Dangerous Schools as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The proposal establishes three levels of threshold offenses, all felonies, and assigns either an absolute value or point values to the offenses. The Board of Education will consider the proposal for final adoption at its April 29 meeting.


Incidents that will be used to analyze whether a school is persistently dangerous are violent actions constituting criminal activities designated as felonies as determined by a comparison of 18.2-30 et seq. of the Code of Virginia to the list of offenses contained in the Annual Report on Discipline, Crime, and Violence. A school would be designated as persistently dangerous only after meeting or exceeding thresholds for certain categories of incidents as established by the Board of Education for three consecutive years.


In accordance with federal law, schools must be identified for the first time by July 1, 2003. The first round of determination of persistently dangerous schools will use data collected for the 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002 school years.


A full copy of the proposed criteria may be downloaded from the Department of Educations website:


Comments may be e-mailed to Dr. Cynthia Cave, ( director of policy, or you may write to Dr. Cave at the Virginia Department of Education, P.O. Box 2120, Richmond, VA 23218.