Virginia Senator Cosgrove Introduces Bill to Repeal Optional Reporting of Misdemeanors in Schools


Senator John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) has introduced a bill for the 2022 General Assembly session requiring school principals to report certain misdemeanor offenses to law enforcement and to the victim’s parents. His SB 2 reverses changes made by Delegate Mike Mullin’s (D-Newport) 2020 House Bill 257. That bill changed the law so only felonies were required to be reported to law enforcement, leaving the rest to be reported at the discretion of school officials.

Mullins’ original bill kept reporting requirements for some misdemeanors including sexual assault. That version of the bill passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

In January 2020, Mullin explained the bill in committee: “HB 257 goes through and says that there are going to be less things that we need to mandatorily report to law enforcement, giving more discretion to principals, school boards, teachers, to be able to evaluate the nature of student behavior. What we’ve found over the course of the last decade is that we’ve been continuing to criminalize conduct that at one time meant that you and I would be sent to the principal’s office. Now because of regular access to law enforcement, there are some people that have been referring kids for kicking a trash can. I had one of that when I was prosecuting.  Yelling and tossing over a desk. All things that are totally inappropriate and disruptive to the school environment and need to be properly punished, but didn’t need to go through my courtroom as a prosecutor.”

The Senate changed the bill to only require reporting of felonies, eliminating clauses that still required reporting of sexual assaults and a few other misdemeanors. That version passed the Senate with bipartisan support, although Cosgrove was among multiple Republicans who voted no.

In response to the changes, House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert said in February 2020,”Forgive me, Madam Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, for being shocked that the patron, a career prosecutor, would want to accept these amendments, and frankly would want to put you all in the position of voting to accept these amendments.”

The new version passed the House along party lines, with no Republicans voting for the bill.

In 2021, HB 257 gained attention after sexual assaults in Loudoun County Public Schools. The Sheriff’s Office said the assaults were promptly reported to law enforcement, but an apparent lack of transparency by school officials over the issue highlighted the recently-weakened reporting requirements in the Code of Virginia. As a result, both LCPS’ own reporting standards and HB 257 became Republican targets.

Congressional candidate Delegate John McGuire (R-Henrico) has also said he will introduce legislation to repeal HB 257.

McGuire, who voted for the first version of the bill, said in a November press release, “As a father of five, I find it disturbing and downright evil that anyone would support a law that allows school administrators to refrain from notifying police when crimes such as sexual battery or stalking have occurred.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Cosgrove” by Senate of Virginia. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.

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