State News

GOP bill aims to protect teachers from student violence

State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the state DPI to ramp up protection for teachers in instances of student-inflicted violence.

In response to a report by a conservative radio host, a state legislator has introduced a bill Tuesday intended to protect Wisconsin teachers from physical assault from their students.

State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, released the text of his “Teacher Protection Act”, which is “aimed at protecting teachers and restoring discipline in classrooms.”

The bill would require the state Department of Public Instruction to post a summary of teachers’ rights and protections, integrate assault on school personnel into the categories of suspension or expulsion for pupils and instruct schools to maintain records of pupil behavior, which must be accessible for review by instructors.

“School safety is not just for kids — it is vital for teachers and staff as well,” Thiesfeldt stated in a press release. “While I wish it were not necessary to bring legislation forward on this issue, we must bring this serious discussion to the light of day on how we can better protect our teachers.”

The proposal is in direct response to a segment by Dan O’Donnell, a Milwaukee-based conservative talk-radio host, titled “Blood on the Blackboard,” The report documented interviews of several Milwaukee school teachers who were subjected to physical assault by their students.

On his show O’Donnell criticized federal anti-discrimination practices, intended to investigate racially-motivated school disciplinary actions. He argued that the increased oversight they bring could dissuade schools from pursuing disciplinary measures for fear of federal backlash.

“Many teachers were understandably intimidated, left to wonder if they were somehow going to be found in violation of federal law for simply trying to discipline their students and regain some semblance of control over their classrooms,” O’Donnell said.

Thiesfeldt also cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Education are also cited in a press release, noting that Wisconsin has the highest rate of physical violence against teachers by students in the nation.

“Teachers are responsible for providing an appropriate learning atmosphere within their classroom,” Thiesfeldt said in the release. “Logical disciplinary techniques have been set aside to respond to the pressure applied by misguided federal agencies to reduce suspensions and expulsions.”

Some experts, however, believe the underlying causes of violent outbursts from students remain unaddressed.

“Most of the instances involve students with significant emotional and behavioral challenges, and I think it’s safe to say that schools in many cases are not situated to deal students with challenges with impulse control and anger management,” said Bradley Carl, an assistant scientist in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Carl said that more funding would help schools better address behavioral issues

“The main challenge that these schools face are budget crunches; how do you invest in the best practices, which tend to be labor-intensive and small group-based, and are challenging for schools to implement in an environment where budgets are continually cut?” he said.

The bill is currently in circulation for co-sponsors. 

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