TCTA tackles harassment of teachers by students | TCTA
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TCTA tackles harassment of teachers by students

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One of TCTA’s major accomplishments of the 2019 legislative session was the passage of SB 2432. The bill was filed in the Senate by Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor and sponsored in the House by Rep. Scott Sanford (with considerable assistance from House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty during contentious floor debate).

Media reports have picked up on the bill in recent days and teachers across the state are praising the new protections.

TCTA lawyers increasingly hear reports of serious harassment of teachers, escalating to the point of student threats on teachers’ lives, families and property. Unfortunately, some districts haven’t handled these incidents well, putting threatening students back in the classroom with little or no consequence for their actions.

Among the situations we’ve heard:

  • One member reported to us that a student who failed a quiz threatened the teacher, saying that if the teacher cared about her family, she would not record his failing grade. The teacher sent the student to the assistant principal, who returned the student to the teacher’s class within five minutes.
  • Another member reported that a student threatened to “shoot up” her house.
  • Another member’s students threatened to harm her children.

TCTA feels strongly that when a student threatens a teacher, these threats should be taken seriously and result in swift action to address the circumstances surrounding the threat in a way that protects the teacher, the student and the student’s classmates. SB 2432 ensures that students threatening teachers will be removed from the classroom and that administrators must determine an appropriate placement.

Passing SB 2432 was a battle, particularly in the House of Representatives. The House vote on final passage was 74-67, but the official recording of votes in the House Journal, which includes a number of members either changing a vote or recording a vote after being away from their desks, shows that the bill would only have passed by one vote (73-72). The opposition in the House stemmed in large part from special education advocates concerned about students being removed from the classroom for simply being annoying, or for behavior related to their disability. Civil rights advocates also have general concerns about exclusionary discipline, with research showing that special education students and students of color are subject to disciplinary action disproportionately.

It is important to remember that (1) the “harassment” referred to in the bill refers to specific, serious situations outlined in the Penal Code (such as the above examples reported by our members); and (2) the law requires administrators to convene a meeting with the teacher, student and parents to discuss the behavior and consequences before determining the DAEP placement. This provides an opportunity for the administrator to consider any mitigating factors and ensure that the incident is handled appropriately.

The protections of SB 2432 became effective on Sept. 1, 2019, for events that occur after that date. TCTA members should contact the TCTA Legal Department at 888-879-8282 with any questions about the bill.