Virginia Bill Proposes Mandatory School Bathroom Inspections Every Half Hour

Virginia schools may soon be required to implement a new safety measure under a bill proposed by a Republican delegate. According to the bill, a school employee would be responsible for checking every bathroom in the school every half-hour to ensure the safety of students.

This proposal comes after a disturbing case in 2020, where a 6-year-old student in Hampton was allegedly sexually assaulted by another student in a school bathroom over a period of 18 months.

Del. A.C. Cordoza, R-Hampton, the patron of the bill, clarified that it is still a working paper and may be subject to amendments before it is finalized. He mentioned that nothing is set in stone until it receives the governor’s approval.

What Does the Proposal Entail?

The proposed House Bill 1528, also known as Celeste’s Law after the Hampton student, outlines the requirement for public schools to assign an employee to check every restroom in the building at least once every 30 minutes during regular school hours. Cordoza explained that this measure not only ensures bathroom safety but also allows the designated employee to observe any suspicious activities or potential harm to other students while conducting the checks.

Cordoza acknowledged that the school culture has changed over the years, which motivated him to introduce this bill. He emphasized that the intention behind the legislation is not to remove teachers from their classrooms for security checks. Instead, the bill specifies that employees responsible for checking the restrooms can be school resource officers or school security officers.

He clarified, “We don’t want to overburden school resource officers or SSOs either. We just want to make sure our kids are safe, and I want to do that in the most effective and efficient way possible.”

The Hampton Case and Its Impact

Cordoza stated that he made a promise to Nikia Miller, the mother of the student involved in the Hampton case, to take all necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in his area or across the commonwealth.

According to the mother, in March 2020, a principal from Hampton City Public Schools informed her that her child had been sexually assaulted multiple times by another student who was a year older. The assaults began when her daughter was 6 years old and lasted for about 18 months.

Miller revealed that her daughter experienced repeated anxiety and panic attacks as a result of the assaults and had to attend therapy sessions on a weekly basis. She also had to be transferred to another school for her safety.

In response to the incident, Miller filed a $5 million lawsuit against Hampton schools, alleging negligence on their part, as reported by the Virginian-Pilot.

Hampton City Public Schools conducted an investigation along with the Hampton City Police Division and found that two second-grade girls from different after-school programs had met in a girls’ restroom after school hours. The school division claimed that they were unaware of these encounters until after they had taken place.

In a statement to WTKR, the school division expressed their commitment to providing a safe environment for all students. They stated that, upon the parent’s request, the aggrieved student was enrolled in another school and offered counseling.

Notably, the Hampton case is not an isolated incident. Another incident took place in Loudoun County Public Schools in 2021, where a high school student assaulted two female students on separate occasions. The initial assault occurred in a bathroom, and the student later transferred to another school, where he assaulted another student. The first victim has now filed a $30 million lawsuit against the school division, claiming that Title IX processes were not followed and that the division failed to initiate an investigation until five months after the assault.

Cordoza, having knowledge of the Loudoun cases as well, believes that the General Assembly must take proactive steps to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

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