The Senate approved Senate Bill 81 Monday to better protect elementary teachers and school employees from violent students. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said the legislation was requested by Oklahoma Professional Educators who noted that violence in elementary schools is increasing at an alarming rate.
“Unfortunately, we have more and more children being raised in homes where they or others are being abused, neglected or exposed to some kind of violence. Children then bring those emotional problems to the classroom where they act out against others creating a dangerous environment,” said Sharp. “Teachers aren’t counselors and these children may need to be removed from the classroom so their families can address their issues or the school counselors can help them.”
The bill would provide the same punishment options for school employees for violent third through fifth graders as is already provided for sixth through twelfth grade including out-of-school suspension. The bill also provides a new minimum five-day or less suspension option at the discretion of the superintendent on a case by case basis as an alternative to the semester or yearlong suspension in current law. The shorter suspension time also would now allow a teacher of a violent student to request that student be moved to another class. Currently, teachers can only ask that a student be moved after receiving the semester or yearlong suspension. The measure allows the use of youth services agencies like the Office of Juvenile Affairs and the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in cases when necessary where out-of-school suspension would not be beneficial to a student.
“I don’t like the idea of suspending young students but obviously they need help that a classroom teacher can’t provide,” said Sharp. “We have an obligation to ensure the safety of our schools and classrooms. This is simply another tool for schools and parents to use to address student violence.”
SB 81, co-authored by Rep. Jadine Nollan, now moves the House for further consideration. Title was struck on the bill before being approved by the Senate.