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School discipline bill may be reconsidered in special session of West Virginia Legislature

By Daisy Gibbons, The Exponent Telegram

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A special session of the West Virginia Legislature is approaching, and lawmakers may again attempt to pass a bill aimed at addressing disruptive behavior in primary schools.

Senate Bill 614 was introduced during the regular session, but stalled out during the final hours.

The measure focuses on students in kindergarten through sixth grade whose behavior in the classroom is violent, threatening or intimidating toward staff and fellow students and impedes the learning environment. Under the legislation, these students would be placed in a county behavioral intervention program.

For counties without behavioral intervention programs, students would be removed from the classroom following the incidents.

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, previously told WV News that he would like to see the student discipline bill revisited during the special session expected to be held in May.

“This bill as it is written is not a permissive bill; it is mandatory,” said Jim Brown, executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association.

“Having served as an elementary principal and a school district superintendent, I can attest this punitive approach fails to adequately address the underlying issues and to provide these students with the supports they need to succeed,” he said. “Elementary schools are ill-equipped to manage, let alone address, the mental health issues our students are dealing with.”

A small percentage of school districts in West Virginia have an established alternative learning environment for elementary-age students, Brown said.

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