New Virginia law requires schools to report misdemeanors to law enforcement

As parents get ready to send their kids back to school, a new state law in Virginia now requires principals to report misdemeanors involving people at the school.

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The law, which went into effect in July, requires principals to report misdemeanor offenses to law enforcement, and some concerned parents tell FOX 5 it's important everyone with children in Virginia schools be informed of the new reporting system before the school year begins.

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"Parents need to be aware of it, they need to tell their kids that's its zero tolerance and that they aren't going to stand for any misbehavior," says Marianne Burke. "We are criminalizing our kids, kids as young as in elementary school can end up with rap sheets.

Burke, who is a Fairfax County parent and a member of "4 Public Education" is working on a report about the effects this bill could have on children. One of those negative impacts could be on children of color, who according to Burke tend to face more severe punishments in respond to wrongdoing. 

A retired Fairfax County teacher FOX 5 spoke with agreed.

"My worry is that there is not enough built into the system to take care of the kids who are having the police called on them. What about their rights? What about their sensibilities? These are young people," says Larry Little.

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Virginia State Delegate Tim Anderson says the bill, which he co-introduced, is replacing a previous bill that required schools to only report felonies.

"Principals under the rules passed by democrats would've had the discretion to cover up sexual assaults that happen in schools. Not felony sexual assaults but misdemeanor sexual assaults as well as a variety of other crimes," says Delegate Anderson. "We see what happened in Loudoun where a child who sexually assaulted someone allegedly got moved to another school and allegedly assaulted another person."

Anderson says that just because police are being called in these incidents, it doesn't mean the children will face charges. He also adds that the bill is meant to cut back on serious offenses and is will not over criminalize children.

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Despite this, parents like Burke are expressing their concerns and asking Virginia's Board of Education to step in.

You can read the full bill here.