Senate Votes to Uphold McClellan Law to Disrupt School-To-Prison Pipeline

Rules Committee Rejects Attempt to Reinstate ‘Disorderly Conduct’ Charge for Students

RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Senate Rules Committee voted to block a bill (HB89) that would have reinstated the vague Class 1 misdemeanor “disorderly conduct” charge for student behavior deemed disruptive at a school or school-sponsored event.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) sponsored the 2020 law that eliminated the “disorderly conduct” charge, a key step to break up the school-to-prison pipeline. McClellan’s bill passed the Senate unanimously and  he House on a bipartisan basis in 2020.

“Today’s vote in the Senate will ensure that Virginia does not return to criminalizing childhood behavior at school that is best handled through the disciplinary process,” Sen. McClellan said. “Eliminating the vague ‘disorderly conduct’ charge took a major step towards ending Virginia’s worst-in-the-nation record on pushing students into the criminal justice system. We must continue our bipartisan work to break up the school-to-prison pipeline and to ensure all Virginia students have the opportunity to succeed.”

The frequent use of “disorderly conduct” charges for school incidents prior to 2020 led to an increase in the school-to-prison pipeline, and has increased racial disparities in Virginia’s education system. A 2019 report by the Legal Aid Justice Center showed that the number of disorderly conduct cases had risen by 45% over the previous 4 years, and that Black students represented 62% of the cases, despite representing 22% of the school population. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity released a report showing Virginia led the nation in student referrals from schools to law enforcement agencies – nearly three times the national average. In Virginia these reports included law enforcement referrals for children who kicked trash cans and sang rap songs. 

Sen. McClellan first introduced disorderly conduct legislation as a Delegate in 2016