Teen's Suicide Leads to School Discipline Legislation

In the wake of his son's suicide, a Fairfax County father is pushing for change when it comes to discipline procedures in Virginia's public schools.

Steve Stuban stood today with a bipartisan group of northern Virginia lawmakers determined to win approval of legislation that would require school administrators to notify parents when a student is accused of a serious violation.

"I got a call in my office and it was from the assistant principal from Nick's school," said Stuban, remembering the call that came in November 2010. "He said, 'Mr. Stuban, your son is suspended with a recommendation for expulsion. Stop by the school and we'll tell you about it.' That was the first inkling anything was going on with Nick."

By that time, 15-year-old Nick had already been questioned twice and signed a confession that he'd purchased a type of legal, synthetic marijuana.

Nick committed suicide Jan. 20, 2011 -- a suicide his parents blame in part on the way school officials handled the disciplinary proceedings.

"I think you need to involve parents at the earliest opportunity," Stuban said, "and perhaps if they'd done that it might have been a calmer, less adversarial outcome."

Four bills have been proposed. One sponsored by Fairfax County Republican Delegate Tim Hugo requires parental notification before an administrator questions a student regarding a serious violation of school policy. Serious violations are those that could result in suspension or police involvement.

"This is something that can impact a student for life," Hugo said. "Parents have an obligation and duty and right to be informed of something that could really affect what happens to a young person."

Already, Fairfax County's school board adjusted its policies in response to the outcry over Nick Stuban's suicide and other cases. But lawmakers say a more specific, statewide mandate is needed.

Said Hugo, "It's tragic what happened to the Stuban family, and we need to make sure it doesn't happen to any other families across the Commonwealth."

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