Thursday, April 19, 2018

Senate Bill 465 Will Reduce Teacher Rights on Student Discipline

SB 465 is intended to reduce student suspensions and student removals from the regular classroom.

SB 465 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee today!

For many years advocates for students have made numerous attempts to reduce student suspensions and expulsions. It is my understanding that students are now suspended out of school for only extremely disruptive behavior. Most educators, including this blogger agree that everything reasonably possible must be done to keep kids in school. But there must be a balance between the rights of disruptive students and the rights of teachers to maintain a productive classroom including the rights of students who are not disruptive to have orderly instruction in the classroom.

One of the compromises between these interests over the years has resulted in the fact that students can never be permanently expelled from school, no matter how atrocious their behavior may be. In the most extreme cases, students can be removed from regular classroom and placed in an alternative school setting, but they can never be banned from their right to an education.

But the one remaining right to an orderly classroom for teachers remains the teacher's right to remove extremely disruptive or disrespectful students from the classroom on a temporary basis. In the cases where students must be repeatedly removed for disrespectful or disruptive behavior, teachers now have the  right to require parents to come in for a conference. That is one of the relatively minor rights of teachers that this legislation wants to do away with.

SB 465, in its present form, will actually make it more difficult for non-disruptive students to have an orderly classroom and will drive even more teachers out of the teaching profession.

There are already many alternatives to suspension that are already being utilized to keep students in school. For example, many students who are extremely disruptive or disrespectful to the teacher are often given "in-school-suspension" where they can continue to receive instruction and receive school credit. But what happens if a student fails to comply with the rules of in-school-suspension and for example, physically attacks the instructor of the alternative setting?  Present law provides that any student who fails to comply fully with the rules of in school suspension shall be given regular out-of- school suspension. HB 465 would change the rule from a shall to a may. State superintendent John White and his department already put extreme pressure on local school systems to stop out-of-school suspensions. This small change in the law increases their leverage to further interfere with local school administrators who are desperately trying to maintain a productive learning environment and respect for teachers.

SB 465 also pushes local school systems to implement costly and time consuming interventions such as "restorative justice" and "peer mediation". These methods while applauded by social workers as great alternatives to suspension, are expensive (because they require schools to hire more non-teaching specialists) and can actually take away from the time spent on instruction. You can't have "peer mediation" without taking some of the classroom time and taking away the other students (peers) away from their regular instruction. Meanwhile our teachers and schools are expected to do more to prepare students for high stakes tests.

In a parallel world where there is unlimited funding for non-teaching interventions and where the school day can be expanded to accommodate those interventions, it may be great to provide these services. But I don't see the legislature providing one penny of extra funding. (Just like the legislature failed to provide one penny of funding for the merit pay Jindal mandated, which caused the teacher salary schedules to have steps for experience and degrees removed).

At present, it is not clear whether or not charter schools will be exempted from these new rules. We know for sure that voucher schools will not have to comply. What this may set up is to have the regular public schools become a dumping ground for disruptive and disrespectful students.

This bill, in its present form will do the exact opposite of what it is intended to do by denying all students vital class time and teachers proper respect. It will ultimately cause more teachers to resign and increase the teacher shortage.