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House passes bill allowing teachers to remove disruptive students from class

Delegates passed a long-discussed bill that would allow elementary school teachers to remove especially disruptive students from classrooms.

SB 614 passed on an 82-14 vote. The bill already passed the Senate but goes back there again because of some changes that were made.

“I can’t tell you the number of teachers who have told me ‘Oh good lord, thank you. We needed something to get these kids out of the class that are just, pardon the expression, hellbent on raising cain and causing disruption,’” said Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer.

When a teacher in grades kindergarten through 6 determines that a student’s behavior is violent, threatening or intimidating — or creates an unsafe learning environment — the student is required to be placed in a behavioral intervention program provided by the county. The bill provides definitions for violent or disruptive behavior.

If a county doesn’t have access to such a program, the student involved in an incident would be immediately removed from the classroom, parents would be notified, the student would be prohibited from riding the bus and, if the student is not picked up by the end of the day, then school representatives may notify law enforcement.

The bill generated debate on the House floor, with some delegates saying more effort needs to go toward intervening with troubled students.

“What we’re talking about in this bill, kindergarteners through sixth graders — and while I understand the need to do something, I think we’re only addressing the back end of the problem,” said Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha.

“Now, we’re known for years that societal problems have led us to this, whether it’s the drug epidemic, the destruction of the family, too many kids being raised in single-parent homes or by grandparents or in foster care. I don’t believe we’re talked enough about the entirety of the issue, though. We’re just addressing the symptom of a far greater problem.”

Delegate Anitra Hamilton, D-Monongalia, agreed that the state is not doing enough on the front end.

“While I do believe that we should have discipline and no teacher should have to suffer violence; they should not have to suffer repeated disturbances in their classrooms,” Hamilton said.

But, she continued, “We have to be more specific as to how we want our classrooms governed and just kicking children out without giving them the proper tools that they need when you reinstitute them back into class, they’re going to be the same child with no interventions.”

Delegate Elliott Pritt, R-Fayette, said his experiences as a teacher led him to see the need for the bill.

“There are people being hurt. We have teachers whose fingers are being broken. We have students who are scared to go to school because of the extreme behaviors of their fellow classmates.”

Delegate Andy Shamblin, another teacher, said the bill is not perfect, but it’s a good step.

“I echo some of what has been said. We need more intervention. We need more support services in schools,” said Shamblin, R-Kanawha.

“But one thing I believe as absolutely true: As a teacher, if you cannot control your classes, you cannot educate. If you cannot control, you cannot teach.”