RD194 - Interim Report of the Virginia Commission on Youth - Study of Alternative Education Options

Executive Summary:
Legislators, child advocates and others have expressed concern about the utilization of suspension and expulsion in Virginia’s public school system. Research has revealed that such disciplinary actions may increase a student’s risk of becoming disengaged from and even dropping out of school. While student discipline laws and policies must maintain a student’s right to a safe and orderly learning environment, there is a concern that exclusionary discipline approaches have the potential to increase poor outcomes in students. In Virginia, alternative education programs are available to bridge this gap by providing educational services to disciplined students or students who have not been successful in a traditional learning environment. The question arises whether existing programs in Virginia are sufficiently meeting the need of these students.

At the Commission on Youth meeting on May 17, 2006, Commission staff was directed to conduct a review of alternative education programs for youth who are suspended, expelled or at-risk. Additionally, the Commission was directed to explore data available at the Department of Education to determine whether a problem exists regarding the number of school suspensions and expulsions within Virginia public schools. Findings and recommendations were to be presented to the Commission on Youth prior to both the 2007 and 2008 General Assembly Sessions.

The Commission established an Alternative Education Advisory Group consisting of representatives from the Department of Education, the School Board Association, the Education Association, local school divisions, and other stakeholders as listed in Appendix A. The Advisory Group met three times through the course of the study’s first year (July 12, August 9 and September 19). Following presentations by Commission on Youth staff at the October 3 and November 28, 2006 meetings, it was recommended that the study be continued and findings and recommendations from the second year of the study be reported to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2008 General Assembly Session.

In fulfilling its legislative mandate, the Commission undertook the study.