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Senate education chair wants lawmakers to address issues of discipline


CHARLESTON — State Senate Education Committee Chair Amy Nichole Grady said a priority for her during the 2024 Regular Legislative Session will focus on classroom behavioral issues among students.

“It’s an increasing problem,” Grady (R-Mason) said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Grady, a Mason County school teacher, said more kindergarten through 5th grade students are being disruptive. She said more discipline measures are needed so the state doesn’t drive more teachers away.

“It’s not necessarily the pay that makes teachers leave. It’s the behaviors and the expectations that we’re supposed to be able to deal with the behaviors,” Grady said.

Data released in May by the state Department of Education showed more than 28,000 students were suspended in 2022 and that most of those students were either Black, disabled, homeless, in foster care or came from low socio-economic families. The average student that was suspended last year lost about six days of classroom instruction.

Grady said she sees a lot of students who act out from trauma at home.

“Some of our students come to school and the only place they feel safe is at school. If we have students that are being constantly disrupting, throwing things, cussing, yelling, slamming things, imagine the experience that gives to a child who thinks that’s their safe space,” she said.

All students’ needs have to be considered in order to create positive change, Grady said.

“I feel for those students who have been through trauma, I really do, but I also look at the other students who are going through trauma because of this and it’s not fair to them,” she said.

State Board of Education President Paul Hardesty previously called the discipline issue “a crisis.”

“We have a problem of epic proportions. It’s no wonder we’re in a position we are on proficiency,” Hardesty told board members when the data was released in May.

It’s not just about improving behavior among young students. Hardesty said during the board’s meeting earlier this month he also wants the Legislature to focus on holding county boards of education accountable for not meeting required benchmarks or financial responsibilities.

Earlier this month, the state BOE declared a State of Emergency in Hampshire County Schools over incomplete services for special needs students. A separate State of Emergency was declared in Upshur County Schools earlier this year over issues with pandemic relief spending. The board also took over the Logan County school system last year due to issues of non-compliance.

Grady said the first step of addressing behavioral issues has to start with parents and teachers.

“We have to figure out a way that we put some teeth to discipline and that if your child can’t behave in school and can’t follow the rules that are expected, then it has to be easier for teachers to say they need a different type of environment and that this environment isn’t working for them,” she said.