PRESS RELEASE: Virginia School Discipline Project Expands to Richmond Area
Tackling systemic inequity by making school discipline information more accessible
Recent data shows that more than 10% of Virginia students are suspended each year, with suspensions disproportionately falling on students of color and students with disabilities. Smart Cville is pleased to announce the Richmond-area expansion of the Virginia School Discipline Project, an online tool aimed at helping families navigate complex procedures and know their rights when their students are disciplined in Virginia public schools.
“With new school discipline laws in effect this school year, it is more important than ever for parents and students to be aware of their rights in school,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of the JustChildren Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). “This resource provides easy-to-navigate resources for all parents to help their children succeed.”
Almost a year ago, a team of civic innovators in Charlottesville released the tool for the entire state, but with local resources only for Central Virginia families. Now, thanks to Smart Cville, LAJC, and a volunteer-led project team, these local resources have also been added for Richmond Public Schools, Chesterfield County Public Schools, and Petersburg City Public Schools. Additional Richmond-area resources are expected to be released in the upcoming months.
After hearing positive feedback and garnering interest from other states, the team set out to expand its local resources to additional areas in Virginia. This issue is incredibly relevant in the Richmond metropolitan area. A recent review of Chesterfield elementary school students in 2016-2017 reported a staggering 800 suspensions, 200 of which went to students with disabilities. Richmond itself had the fourth-highest short-term suspension rate in Virginia.
“By expanding the project, we hope to empower more families by providing easy access to school discipline rules, which can oftentimes be difficult to find online. Using this tool, with a few clicks, parents can access straightforward information about their student’s rights and responsibilities,” said Amanda Ames, a Charlottesville attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, who has volunteered with the project.
The tool, found at http://virginiaschooldiscipline.com, explains the rights of students facing disciplinary actions in plain language and provides practical tips for students and their families. While the site is not a substitute for hiring a lawyer, the team hopes that the tool may lessen the systemic inequity by providing legal information to those for whom hiring a lawyer is impossible because of cost, lack of time, or lack of familiarity with how to find a lawyer. The tool asks users a series of questions before directing them to tips specific to the student’s specific issue, which may be translated into numerous languages.
“This project is a great example of how civic innovators from diverse backgrounds can improve their communities with civic technology.” said Lucas Ames, Founder of Smart Cville.