COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO NO. 39
February 18, 2005
Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
During the 2005 session of the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate Bradley Marrs introduced House Bill 2202. The bill proposed to amend the Code of Virginia to state that
No disciplinary action shall be imposed against students for possession of a bona fide eating utensil or personal grooming device, unless such utensil or device is brandished or employed as a weapon or otherwise to effect or to threaten an act of violence or intimidation against another or against property.
Although this piece of legislation was not enacted by the legislature, the Department of Education is issuing this memo to encourage school divisions to exercise reasonableness when rendering disciplinary sanctions against students.
Section 22.1‑277 of the Code of Virginia permits the suspension or expulsion of pupils from attendance at school for sufficient cause. Pursuant to 22.1-279.6, the Board of Education has established guidelines for codes of student conduct to aid local school divisions in the implementation of student discipline policies. The Student Conduct Policy Guidelines were revised and adopted by the board in September of 2004. Those guidelines state as follows:
Carrying, bringing, using, or possessing dangerous instruments in any school building, on school grounds, in any school vehicle, or at any school-sponsored activity on or off school property is grounds for disciplinary action. Examples of dangerous instruments include knives with blades less than three inches [A knife with a blade of more than three inches is defined as a weapon by 18.2-308.1; however any knife has the potential to be used as a dangerous instrument.], letter openers, screwdrivers, hammers, hatchets, and other devices that could be used to inflict harm upon another person. Not subject to mandatory expulsion is possession of a knife that is customarily used for food preparation or service and is possessed by the student for the sole purpose of personal food preparation and service.
Section III of the Student Conduct Policy Guidelines also states:
Disciplinary action will be determined based on the facts of each incident in the reasonable discretion of the school board and other appropriate school officials.
School divisions should examine the circumstances of each incident, and disciplinary actions should be evaluated carefully and reasonably with all facts considered. Application of the model Student Conduct Policy Guidelines may address the concerns raised by the General Assembly members during the 2005 session.
A complete copy of the Student Conduct Policy Guidelines may be found at the departments website: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Instruction/Sped/stu_conduct.pdf
If you have questions, please contact the Division of Policy and Communications, by phone at (804) 225-2403 or 225-2092 or by e-mail to Policy@doe.Virginia.gov.