Student violence towards other students, teachers and school staff in Oklahoma’s elementary schools is a growing problem. Retired educator Sen. Ron Sharp is the author of Senate Bill 81 to address the issue by lowering the grade level from sixth to third at which students can be subject to out-of-school suspension for violent behavior or threats. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure Monday.
“Teachers aren’t licensed counselors but every day they’re faced with children acting out from abuse, divorces, neglect and other issues, and it’s happening in elementary schools,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Not only is this a distraction in the classroom but it can also be dangerous when children act out in rage overturning chairs, tables and in some cases hitting, shoving or in some other way assaulting others or threatening to harm them. We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our classrooms and allowing out-of-school suspensions is one of the ways we can do that.”
Currently, 6th-12th graders are subject to out-of-school suspension if they assault, attempt to cause physical bodily injury, or act in a manner that could reasonably cause bodily injury to an education employee or a person who is volunteering for the school. SB 81 will add third to fifth graders to the list.
The legislation was requested by Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) who told Sharp that they were getting increasing reports of younger students (3rd-5th graders) being violent towards teachers and asked him to file legislation to protect them and other school employees.
“These unruly students need to know that violence or the threat of it won’t be tolerated. I want to thank Professional Oklahoma Educators for bringing this issue to our attention,” said Sharp.
The bill will next be heard by the full Senate.