RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the General Assembly prepares to embark on its first session of 2022, legislators are set to tackle a slate of sweeping education proposals, many aimed at rolling back policies passed by Democratic legislators over the last few years.
Education was a priority for Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin on the campaign trail, but he presented few specific proposals.
One of his key commitments was a promise to open 20 charter schools across the commonwealth. SB 125, patroned by Republican Mark Obenshain, would lay the groundwork for that plan by establishing regional charter school boards to oversee charter schools that draw students from multiple localities.
Several pieces of legislation are targeted at reversing policies implemented by Democrats when they controlled the ‘trifecta’ of state government – the House of Delegates, State Senate and Governor’s Mansion.
HB 4 and HB 59 would both mandate that school principals report misdemeanor offenses committed by students to law enforcement. Currently, school officials are only required to report felonies, a change implemented by Democrats to reduce the criminalization of students.
SB 20, advanced by Republican Senator Travis Hackworth, would repeal a law that requires local school boards to adopt trans-inclusive policies. The law, which went into effect last year, has been a source of conflict at the local level, with some school boards electing to violate the law by passing-by trans-inclusive policy updates.
These bills will face an uphill battle during this year’s session, as Democrats remain in control of the State Senate by a slim margin.
Police in Schools
HB 37 would require every middle and high school in the state of Virginia to have at least one school resource officer – a police officer assigned to a school in cooperation with a local police department – and at least one officer per five elementary schools.
That bill is a so-called unfunded mandate – a regulation passed down to local school divisions that does not have any funding attached, and so may require localities to bear part or all of the costs.
HB 89 would eliminate a provision exempting students from the definition of disorderly conduct. In effect, this bill would allow school resource officers to charge students with disorderly conduct – a class 1 misdemeanor – for any behavior that “prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of the [school] operation or activity.”
Class 1 misdemeanors can carry a sentence of up to 12 months or a $2,500 fine in the State of Virginia.
Finally, HB 127 would ban affirmative action admissions policies in Virginia’s state-run governor’s schools. Policies aimed at addressing bias in admissions to the elite high schools came under consideration after data showed that Black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded from them.