Follow us on: FacebookTwitterYoutubeInstagram

by Brandon Jarvis

HB 257, the law that was passed in 2020 dropping the requirement of school officials to report every potential crime to law enforcement, continues to be a key talking point for Republican candidates — even as a tool to attack their own. 

In the seventh congressional district, for instance, Republican candidates are using one competitor’s support of the bill as a means to attack him. Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), a filed candidate in the VA-07 race, and seven other Republican senators voted in favor of the bill last year. 

Reeves defended his vote for the bill in a statement released Wednesday morning. “A zero-tolerance law can cause good kids to get criminal records for acting like teenagers. HB 257 was designed to allow discretion for parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators to handle some incidents internally rather than to call law enforcement for literally every incident that occurs on school grounds,” he said. 

The bill became a key talking point for Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin during his campaign as well as House candidates across the commonwealth after an incident in Loudoun County with students being sexually assaulted. 

Del. John McGuire (R-Goochland), another filed candidate in the seventh district, announced Wednesday night that he will be filing legislation to repeal HB 257 in the upcoming legislative session. “I’ll be introducing legislation in the upcoming session to repeal this law and ensure school administrators are once again required to report these crimes to law enforcement moving forward,” McGuire said in a statement.

Tina Ramirez, another candidate in the seventh called for the repeal of the law earlier this week. “I should not be afraid for my daughter’s safety when I send her to school, but HB 257 makes our children less safe. I am calling on the House of Delegates and our new Governor to repeal this horrendous bill,” Ramirez tweeted Monday.

After announcing her candidacy for the seventh Wednesday, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) specifically pointed out in an interview that she and Reeves were on different sides of HB 257. “Sen. Reeves, while we vote together on many issues, there are issues we are different on. I voted against allowing public schools and universities to be able to cover up criminal activity,” Chase said. “Bryce Reeves voted that it is okay for public schools to protect.”

In his statement Wednesday, Reeves correctly noted that the current legislation requires administrators to notify parents of all incidents. “The principal or his designee shall also notify the parent of any student involved in an incident required pursuant to this section to be reported, regardless of whether disciplinary action is taken against such student or the nature of the disciplinary action,” the final text of the bill reads

The bill was thrust into the limelight after community outrage over a juvenile being involved in two separate sexual assaults and parents wanting more information from school officials in Loudoun County. School board meetings became hostile at times and members have received death threats. Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares has indicated that he is interested in investigating the school board’s handling of the situation. 

On Wednesday, Reeves asked for Virginians to believe in good faith that he did not think the situation in Loudoun County would have happened when he voted for the bill. “Never in my life did I ever think a liberal school board in cooperation with its woke superintendent, trample on parent’s rights and blatantly disregard a victim of sexual violence in order to protect their transgender bathroom policies. Here, I must claim Mea Culpa in good faith,” he wrote. 

Reeves said he plans on introducing legislation during the 2022 legislative session to fix the holes he sees in the legislation. “It’s clear to me that whatever law is in place, liberals believe the ends justify the means. Therefore, this January, I will be sponsoring a bill that places criminal charges on those who violate reporting requirements to parents and law enforcement and holding these people accountable for their actions by fixing this bill,” he said. 

Under the current law, it is not required, but a school board is permitted to terminate a principal for failing to properly report incidences. 

But even with the controversy becoming a key topic of the Republican platform, Reeves did not express regret in voting for the bill. “Teenagers will be teenagers and do stupid things, it’s a fact,” he said. “Somewhere in all of this we’ve forgotten what matters most, protecting our kids.” 

Virginia Scope is an independent news publication that is funded largely by donations and subscribers. As local newsrooms are losing writers each day, we are trying to fill the void to ensure that the public is informed and that leaders are held accountable for their actions. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber to our newsletter or making a donation through Paypal below so we can continue to work in Virginia.

By vascope