Disorderly conduct by students in Virginia schools: A new law attempts to sort out the mess.

A common headache teachers, administrators, and school resource officers face in school fights is figuring out who started the incident. Assault and battery of one student by another is still just as wrong and illegal at school as it is everywhere else in Virginia. But a disturbing trend we have seen some schools take in the last 15 years is to take shortcuts to imposing discipline: charge both parties with a crime and let the court system sort out the mess.

This practice has needlessly inconvenienced and wasted courts’ precious time, families’ hard-earned money retaining counsel, and traumatized too many children who did nothing other than defend themselves when being assaulted by another student.

However, this year the General Assembly has passed HB256, and Governor Northam has signed the bill into law. No student can be charged for disorderly conduct on school grounds. Starting July 1st, 2020, schools will now have to carry their load of investigating and punishing those responsible for assaulting their students—including other troublesome students who behaviors endanger others.

This does not mean, however, that two students could not both charge each other with assault and battery simultaneously. It could even be the case that a child who did not start a fight and was the victim gets charged first and would benefit from an attorney by their side in charging the assaulting party themselves.

In cases like these, the two sides will still need to gather evidence, bring witnesses to court, and testify to what happened under oath. And that will not infrequently require the help of an experienced attorney with a history of trying matters involving assaults. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal trial that that might benefit from the careful attention of an attorney experienced with criminal assault cases, and you are in the Richmond, Hanover, Henrico, or Chesterfield area, call the attorneys at Winslow & McCurry for a consultation at 804-423-1382 and we can help!​