TAZEWELL, VA (WVNS) — In Virginia, a bill that would end a requirement for schools to report all crimes that occur on school property to law enforcement could soon become law.
House Bill 257 allows school principals and superintendents to decide whether or not to report misdemeanor crimes committed by students on school property to law enforcement. This would include crimes like assault and battery, sexual assault, stalking, threats, firearm, drug and alcohol violations.
According to the bill, students will still be disciplined at school for the crimes and parents would also be notified. Currently, Virginia schools are required to report all criminal activity to law enforcement immediately.
Director of Public relations for Tazewell County schools, Lindsey Akers, said “We work very closely with law enforcement in our school system.”
Delegate Mike Mullin sponsored the bill, with the goal to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.” However, Tazewell County Commonwealth’s attorney Chris Plaster said the belief that law enforcement are incarcerating young, non-violent offenders for things such as possession of marijuana is a misconception. He said if a student is committing crimes like sexual assault or stalking, the justice system could actually help them with counseling and other programs.
“It may let us get into the home and see what the underlying problems are and divert them from more serious problems when they become an adult,” said Plaster.
He said he is concerned this could create a more dangerous environment for students and faculty. School staff are still required to report child abuse and neglect to protective services.
The bill is currently on Governor Northam’s desk for him to sign, the deadline for action is April 6, 2020.