RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A new report says Virginia schools refer students to law enforcement agencies at nearly triple the national rate. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Virginia’s referral rate of 16 for every 1,000 students leads the nation. The national rate is six referrals per 1,000 students. The center analyzed U.S. Department of Education data from the 2011-2012 school year. In Virginia and nationally, black and special-needs children are being referred to law enforcement at a disproportionate rate. The report suggests that police officers assigned to work schools are handling many disciplinary matters once handled by teachers and principals. It says the findings provide fodder for a growing national debate over whether children are being unnecessarily pushed into a school-to-prison pipeline. The Washington-based center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news agency.