Senators today passed a bill that would bolster the steps teachers could take in dealing with student discipline problems.
“Teachers are burned out because they have to deal with behaviors that you wouldn’t be expected to deal with in other professions,” said Senate Education Chairwoman Amy Nichole Grady, lead sponsor of the bill.
“We couldn’t sit here and name another professions where you would be expected to be OK with having things thrown at you, spit on, hit, punched, kicked bitten — but teachers have to do that every day.”
Senate Bill 614she said, would empower teachers to educate the full class rather than having to focus undue attention on exceptionally unruly students.
When a teacher in grades kindergarten through 6 determines that a student’s behavior is violent, threatening or intimidating — or creates an unsafe learning environment — the student is required to be placed in a behavioral intervention program provided by the county.
If a county doesn’t have access to such a program, the student involved in an incident would be immediately removed from the classroom, parents would be notified, the student would be prohibited from riding the bus and, if the student is not picked up by the end of the day, then school representatives may notify law enforcement.
The student would be suspended for one to three school days until an alternative learning accommodation is made. The student would be prohibited from returning to school until a risk assessment is completed.
The bill passed the Senate, 32-1. It still heads to the House of Delegate, where members have already passed a similarly-themed bill, HB 4776.
The one vote against the Senate school discipline bill was cast by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan. In an earlier committee meeting, Trump advocated for more refinement on the bill — including its level of financial support and what student actions might prompt its use.
Speaking today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Trump said his vote against the bill was meant to underscore those concerns as the bill continues through the legislative process. He said the current version of the bill seems to withdraw authority for decisions about whether students should be removed from class from principals.
“I think maybe it just needs a little more work or tweaking,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t want to see the bill fail completely.
“If nothing else, it’s a signal to the House of Delegates that at least one member of the Senate thinks it might need a little more work or refinement.”
Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, voted in favor of the bill but asked several questions during today’s floor session.
One question was whether every elementary school has direct access to a behavior intervention program. The bill allows counties to partner with neighboring school districts if they don’t have such a program themselves, and Caputo also wondered about aspects of such partnerships, such as transportation costs.
“How do we transport that child from one end to another if it’s a grave distance?” Caputo asked.
Grady, R-Mason, said counties would have to work out such matters themselves.
Senator Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, spoke in favor of the bill, saying this is a long overdue and direct approach to trying to address student discipline problems.
“At the end of the day when we have a student who is violent, who is intimidating, who is threatening, we have to address the issue,” Oliverio said.
“We also have a responsibility to, potentially, 24 other students in that classroom, and we are dependent as West Virginians on those 24 other students to become our doctors and our nurses and school teachers and pharmacists and lawyers and all of the other folks who serve us as citizens.”