WEAC is a leading advocate for safe schools, through policies and funding to ensure students and staff are protected from harm. A bill draft circulated by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt outlines potential new legislation to protect teachers, but a review by WEAC experts shows it falls short of its stated goal. WEAC is not supporting the proposed legislation, and instead is offering – from the educators’ perspective – protections that would make a difference in our classroom and schools.
“All students and staff deserve safe and welcoming schools, and that’s what Wisconsin overwhelmingly offers,” WEAC President Ron Martin said. “When violence is targeted at teachers and paraprofessionals, they must have the support they need. But this bill misses the mark.”
Martin said WEAC has collected educator input across Wisconsin to create our Protection for Educators Plan, that starts with the requirement for existing law to be enforced. The “Removal of Students from Class” (118.164), has been active in Wisconsin since 1999. But, for years, our members have reported that directives under this law are not followed by building principals and other district administrators. Many times, students are immediately returned to class after being removed. This undermines teacher authority afforded in the law but, equally important, undermines their authority in the eyes of all of their students: the disruptor and those whose instruction was interrupted.
Additionally, analysis of the proposed legislation shows the proposed legislation as presented:
- Infringes on student privacy rights;
- Focuses heavily on out-of-school incidents;
- Does not clearly define “taken into custody”;
- Potentially places teachers and administrators at odds with serious consequences over student discipline;
- Provides no requirement for training to defuse or de-escalate in-school incidents;
- Places little to no burden on parents or caregivers;
- Does not address the handling of students with special education needs;
- Will disproportionately affect students of color;
- Includes additional, unnecessary reporting categories for suspension and expulsions; and
- Does not attempt to address the root causes of student disruption and violence.
WEAC has notified Representative Thiesfeldt of our concerns with the plan, and shared our vision for what will really work in our classrooms and schools. Read the letter.
“Along with following current law, Wisconsin needs to do more when it comes to mental health services for students,” Martin said. “The 2017-19 state budget included a small allocation, but educators know the best way to help students is to provide them with programs and counseling that keep them involved in their school community. The best way to protect teachers from violence is to enforce current law and provide effective strategies and resources for dealing with violent and disruptive children.”