“Teacher Protection Act” Bill Introduced

Assembly Bill 693, also known as the “Teacher Protection Act”, has been introduced in the Assembly and referred to the Judiciary Committee. Seem like a strange committee choice?  The bill is authored by Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and new Assembly rules aim to avoid having bills authored by committee chairs go to the chair’s own committee (Rep. Thiesfeldt is a member of the Judiciary Committee, but not the chair).  No Senate companion bill was introduced and there are no state Senators signed on to the bill as cosponsors.

The WASB is opposed to this bill as drafted based on our member-approved resolutions (see below for specifics).  Below is a summary of the provisions of AB 693:

Reporting Mandates

This bill requires law enforcement to report to the school district when a pupil who is enrolled in the school is taken into custody in connection with a felony or violent misdemeanor. Law enforcement must provide this information within 24 hours after determining the school the pupil attends. The bill also requires the school board to notify a teacher who is working directly with a pupil who is the subject of such a record as soon as practicable and, if possible, prior to the pupil attending the teacher’s class.

The bill also requires the school district to notify law enforcement within 24 hours after learning of a physical assault or violent crime towards a person by a pupil that takes place at school or at a school-sponsored activity if requested by a witness to or adult victim of the incident.

These provisions also apply to all private and charter schools.

Teacher “Bill of Rights”

This bill creates and modifies certain rights and protections for teachers and
requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to include on its website a
summary of the laws governing these rights and protections for public school teachers, which include the following:

1. The right of a teacher to remove a pupil from a classroom under certain
circumstances for a period of two consecutive days.
2. The right of a teacher to receive information from a school board about a pupil
who was taken into custody based upon a law enforcement officer’s belief that the
pupil was committing or had committed a felony or violent misdemeanor.
3. The right of a teacher to use reasonable and necessary force under certain
circumstances.
4. The right of a teacher to request a school board to schedule a suspension
hearing when that teacher has requested that a pupil be suspended and the
administrator of the school has denied the request. Under current law, no hearing
is required to suspend a pupil.
5. The right of a school district employee or teacher to receive assistance and
leave benefits if the teacher is injured as a result of a physical assault or violent crime
while performing work duties.
6. The right of a teacher to terminate his or her contract without penalty if the
teacher is a victim of a physical assault or violent crime while performing work
duties.
7. Civil immunity provided to a teacher under state and federal laws for certain
discretionary acts.
8. The right of a teacher to review, upon request, the behavioral records of a
pupil enrolled in the teacher’s class.

The extent to which these items might apply to charter and/or private school teachers is not immediately clear and will require further analysis.

Records Retention Mandates

The bill requires each school board and independent charter school to maintain
pupil behavioral records until the pupil has graduated from high school. If the pupil
is no longer enrolled in a school in the school district and if the school district has not
received a request to transfer the pupil’s records to another school, the school district
must retain the records until the pupil attains the age of 21. Current law prohibits
a school board from maintaining pupil behavioral records for more than one year after the pupil ceases to be enrolled in the school, unless the pupil specifies in writing that his or her behavioral records may be maintained for a longer period.

The bill also requires private voucher schools to maintain behavioral records for each pupil while the pupil attends the private school for the same period of time as is required
of public schools.  The bill requires a private school that is not participating in a parental choice (voucher) program to maintain pupil behavioral records only if the private school has adopted a policy governing the maintenance of pupil progress records and, with one exception, for the same length of time the private school maintains pupil progress records.  Current law requires such private schools to maintain a pupil’s progress records while the pupil attends the private school and for at least five years after the pupil ceases to attend the school.

The private school is not required to maintain a pupil’s behavioral records once the pupil has graduated from the private school.  If a private school maintains behavioral records, the private school must keep the information confidential in the same manner as is required of a public school official who maintains behavioral records.

State Report Cards

The bill also requires DPI to include additional information about suspensions
and expulsions in the school district report it creates for each school district,
including the number of physical assaults by pupils on teachers and other school
district employees, on other pupils, and on adults not employed by the school district.

WASB Position

Based on our member-approved resolutions, the WASB opposes this bill as drafted.  To be clear, all teachers deserve to teach in a safe environment and we appreciate the good intentions behind this bill.  That being said, the bill upsets the administrative chain of command in school districts by allowing teachers to unilaterally suspend and remove students from class without having to adhere to school board disciplinary policies, school district behavioral intervention plans, a student’s individual educational plan or a student’s service plan.

WASB Resolution 3.80 on Removal of Students from Class states: the WASB opposes legislation authorizing a teacher to remove a student from the classroom without the approval of principals, administrators or school board policies.

We also have concerns with the additional reporting mandates in the bill as well as student record privacy issues.  The bill would also inject school boards into decisions about student suspensions that  customarily have been delegated to principals and district administrators by allowing teachers to petition the school board to schedule a suspension hearing before the school board if the teacher’s written request that a pupil be suspended has been denied.