By Evanne Armour
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Before he became Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), he wasn’t exactly a star student.
“I was sort of what you would call in public schools a habitual offender,” he said. “I was that student that was getting suspended.”
Bagby said it was his mentor who helped him turn it around by finding other ways to get through to him.
“I’m here today because Bill Parker saw young Lamont Bagby, the high school student, and wanted to find a way to help him,” he said.
Bagby went on to become a teacher and school administrator himself.
“My first job at Henrico County Schools, believe it or not, was in school suspension,” he said. “And so I tell you I am well versed in all of this.”
On Friday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation introduced in the House by Bagby and introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg).
It directs the Board of Education to find alternatives to school suspensions.
“Once we send them home — particularly for more than 10 days — they’re going to come back worse than when we sent them off. It’s sort of a snowball effect,” said Bagby.
Wexton said many students who are acting out in school are doing so because there are problems at home or they’re struggling academically.
“Removing these kids from their schools — where they have structure, they have support — is ultimately counterproductive and perpetuates this cycle of isolation and failure,” she said.
The Center for Public Integrity found that minority students and those with disabilities were referred to law enforcement at a disproportionate rate compared to their classmates.
“Virginia is still number one in the nation for referring kids to the criminal justice system out of our school systems. These bills will help change that,” said Wexton.