Dems Block Bill to Maintain Safe and Effective Classrooms

by James C. Sherlock

I have written earlier about a Democratic bill in this recent General Assembly with broad Democratic support that did not pass.

Let’s look at another bill that did not pass, this one from a Republican, and with broad Republican support.

Article VIII. Section 1 of the Virginia Constitution requires the General Assembly to “seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.”

This bill, HB 1461, was an attempt to carry out that responsibility.

It required the Department of Education to establish, within its regulations governing student conduct, a uniform system of discipline for disruptive behavior and the removal of a student from a class. The bill included criteria for teachers to remove disruptive students from their classes:

  • It instituted a requirement for a teacher to remove a disruptive student from a class if the disruptive behavior is violent; or
  • If the student persisted in disrupting the class after two warnings.

It added a prohibition against holding a teacher liable for taking reasonable actions or utilizing reasonable methods to control a physically disruptive or violently disruptive student.  Every school board would be required to adhere to these provisions.

That was it.

The “ensuring an educational program of high quality” thing.

Every Democrat in both bodies voted against it.

It took those authorities away from school boards and granted them to the Board of Education to offer a uniform system for classroom discipline to:

  • protect teachers and students from violence and disruption in the classroom; and
  • protect teachers from getting sued for maintaining order.

The proposal did not apply to students with disabilities.

Republicans thought there have been enough tragic headlines related to failures of current systems of classroom discipline to justify the change.

Nothing about calling the police or anything else. Just maintaining order in the classroom.

Those votes were taken, as far as I can ascertain, without any Democratic member explaining the vote to kill it.

I checked, and there was no report on this bill in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Another outlet,, quoted a mother of a special needs child as saying before the votes:

Litton Tidd is still worried about the impact it could have because of how many students don’t have a formal diagnosis — especially Black students with autism. Studies show their diagnoses are typically delayed by three years.

Anyone who is yet to be diagnosed will not be protected from the punishments and this law.

It will be traumatizing. It punishes children for being autistic, ADHD, neuro-divergent, and other mental health conditions.

So, Ms. Litton’s signature issue is “undiagnosed Black children with autism.” A fairly specific diagnosis for something undiagnosed.

I would respond to Ms. Litton that removal from the classroom of violent and continually disruptive students is not done as punishment.

It is done first to preserve a safe and effective learning environment for the teacher and the rest of the students.

And it is done to identify children for testing by the school psychologist to determine if they are, say, autistic.

No matter their color.