Our first-in-the-nation civic engagement bill has made Virginia a national leader in student civic engagement.
HB 1940 and SB 1439 will permits students in grades 7 through 12 the option of an excused absence from school for once per year in order to participate in a civic or political event of their choosing. This absence must be appropriately prearranged by students and their parents, and they must provide evidence of the student’s participation in the activity or event.
Fairfax County Public Schools has successfully implemented this policy. Although this measure has been attacked by skeptics for simply allowing students to advocate for social justice while the legislatures of America are in session, this policy has energized teens to enter politics throughout the County.
The Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus passed a resolution in July calling on the General Assembly to take this policy statewide. We took our idea to legislators, and they listened, and introduced the legislation. In July, our bill was endorsed by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Committee, in September by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, and in December by the Democratic Party of Virginia Central Committee.
In January, the Virginia Teenage Republicans began collaborating with us in support of our historic legislation. Despite the support from the Teen Republicans, the vast majority of Republicans voted against the legislation.
HB 1940 and SB 1439 passed the General Assembly and have been signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam. They will take effect July 1, 2021.