Tennessee’s Teacher Discipline Act Took Another Step Toward Becoming A Law After The State Senate Voted To Advance It. The Bill Passed With A 25-8 Vote On March 11, And Will Be Voted On Again By The House.
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Published March 15, 2021
[The Tennessee Conservative Staff] –
Tennessee’s Teacher Discipline Act took another step toward becoming a law after the state Senate voted to advance it. The bill passed with a 25-8 vote on March 11, and will be voted on again by the House.
The bill is meant to help teachers more effectively discipline students who cause continuous disruptions in class. Supporters believe it is necessary to help teachers do the best job they can, but there are others who worry it will negatively impact students.
Republican Senator Joey Hensley, who is sponsoring the bill, said, “Many times, (teachers) try to discipline a child, send them to the principal, the principal sends them right back to the classroom.”
While the House approved this legislation once before, they must now vote on an amendment so it can be sent to Governor Bill Lee for signing. House Bill 16 originally passed with a 91-0 vote in June, but the pandemic delayed it being seen by the Senate.
The Teacher’s Discipline Act “establishes a process for a teacher to request the removal of a student from the teacher’s classroom if the student’s behavior violates the LEA’s or school’s student discipline policy or code of conduct and repeatedly or substantially disrupts the class.”
This process includes six steps the teachers must follow before a student can be permanently removed. They have to document any previous actions taken, offer for them to see the school counselor, arrange a meeting with parents or guardians, and more.
Republican Senator Page Walley opposed the bill, saying, “When a teacher faces a disciplinary issue like this, removing the unruly student from the classroom isn’t the problem. The problem is getting that student the help they need so they can be reinstated into the classroom and achieve academically and behaviorally.”
Walley said counseling services and behavioral health specialists could offer a possible solution, in place of harsher discipline.
Wendy Tucker, from Tennessee’s advocacy group The Center for Learner Equity, released a statement opposing the bill.
In the statement, Tucker said, “Data clearly show that the forms of harsh discipline endorsed in this bill have been disproportionately applied to Black students and students with disabilities for decades. To now pass a bill that encourages these forms of discipline is unacceptable.”
The Tennessee Education Association said there is a way for the bill to be used in a fair way for all students.
President Beth Brown said, “TEA supports measures that give teachers more control over their classrooms and ensure all students have a safe, productive learning environment. This legislation provides for uniformity in discipline processes, recognizing that creating a classroom environment free of major disruption is good for all students.”
State Representative Scott Cepicky, another sponsor of the bill, said, “One of the main reasons teachers are leaving the profession right now is not being able to get control of their classrooms.”
If the Teacher’s Discipline Act passes, educators will be able to permanently remove students who continuously misbehave. The six-step process is put in place to make sure the actual removal of the student is the last resort option.