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Discipline Policy Still An Issue in Fairfax School Board Race

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D.C. Public Schools decided to close all schools early this morning in order to allow for a comprehensive structural inspection after Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia.
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D.C. Public Schools decided to close all schools early this morning in order to allow for a comprehensive structural inspection after Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia.

The long-running discussion about discipline in Fairfax County's public school system is the motivation behind at least one candidate's decision to run for the school board.

The suicide last January of Nick Stuban -- a Woodson H.S. sophomore who was in the midst of disciplinary proceedings at the school -- helped cast a brighter light on the way the district handled students who broke the rules, and eventually led to a revision of the discipline policy this summer.

Nick's father, Steve Stuban, applauds some of the changes, which include increased oversight of hearings, and a reduced use of student transfers as punishments.

Nick was one of two FCPS students that committed suicide during the last school year; both of those students had been transferred to different schools as part of a disciplinary action.

But despite the changes, Steve Stuban says the message he got from most of the school board and Superintendent Jack Dale during the process was the wrong one.

"We don't need your thoughts, we don't need your inputs, we've got all the answers already, and really there's nothing wrong with our system -- please go away," Stuban says of his impressions from the board.

Now Stuban is running for an at-large seat on the school board, but his candidacy is not motivated only by his personal tragedy, he says.

"I think it's a mindset that needs to be changed within FCPS and the school board," he says. "They need to welcome community input."

School board member Brad Center, who is not running for reelection, says he thinks the board has handled the disciplinary problems well. But board members and district administrators do need to do a better job of governing in an age where social media means community concerns spread faster than ever, Center adds.

"We need to learn as a system, as a board, how to respond better, faster and more flexibly," Center says.

A lot of new faces will have chance to make that happen; the Fairfax County school board will have six new members after November's election.

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