Fairfax school board considers change to zero tolerance policy

Fairfax County school officials are considering a change to the school system’s zero tolerance policy. Under the policy, first-time drug offenders face expulsion.

The issue has attracted a great deal of attention in the past four years after suicides by two students related to the policies. The Fairfax school board continued its discussion Monday on how to improve the policies, and one man is leading the effort.

Steve Stubin’s son Nick, a 15-year-old student at Woodson High School, committed suicide two years ago. Nick was suspended and faced expulsion after buying a legal synthetic drug at school, but his parents were never told by the school district.

Two years before that, a similar situation with a student at South Lakes High School also resulted in suicide.

Starting last year, Stubin chaired a committee made of parents and administrators recommending several changes to current policy, including a second chance program for first-time drug infractions, academic support for suspended students, and more discretion for principals.

Like other administrators, Westfield High School principal Tim Thomas wants parents involved when their child is in trouble, but worries notifying them too soon could hinder a school investigation.

“Some of the proposed language could impact our ability to gather the facts in a timely manner that openly we feel protects the entire student body,” Thomas says.

The school board also discussed new policies in dealing with marijuana possession at schools, as well as synthetic substances. A vote is tentatively set for next month.