A new bill aims to quell violent students with new reporting requirements. But some administrators, teachers and student advocates say it won’t solve violence in schools, and actually might make it worse.
Those critics — along with some supporters — packed a Capitol hearing room today to express their concerns.
The bill would require police alert the school system, and the school system alert teachers, if a student is taken into custody for felony and violent misdemeanor.
Bill author Republican Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt says that will keep students, and teachers, safer in classrooms
“Negative behavior without consequences leads to more negative behavior,” Thiesfeldt says.
The bill would also give teachers more say in when students can come back to their classroom’s after suspension, and give teachers who have been physically assaulted by students the ability to break their contract and power to appeal denied suspensions by school administrators.
He says those administrators have gone soft on troublemakers — putting teachers in danger.
But critics say police involvement at school and continuing to rely on suspension and expulsion isn’t the way to help students.
Ken Taylor is the executive director of Kids Forward, a research and advocacy group formerly known as the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. He said at a press conference before today’s hearing that the bill would disproportionately impact students of color.
“Teachers absolutely deserve safe working environments,” Taylor says. “But the punitive actions promoted in this bill will do little to protect teachers, while at the same time making it harder for students to achieve their full potential.”
Critics, including Taylor, also say the bill would exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline — or the tendency for schools to use punitive punishments on students like suspension and expulsion that pushes students — especially students of color — out of schools and into prisons.
Thiesfeldt, however, says his bill will do the opposite.
“What truly grows the school-to-prison pipeline is the current trend toward minimizing serious negative behavior and the coddling of children with no serious consequences,” Thiesfeldt says.
Disability rights activists and parents also say the bill would hurt their kids. Nicole Wiegel is one of those parents. Her son Caleb is autistic, and she says interactions with police at school left him traumatized.
“If we are to expect our children to trust us we must be trustworthy,” Wiegel says. “If we want to feel safe around them, we must create a safe environment for them.”
The Associated Press reports Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wouldn’t say today whether or not the bill would get a floor vote. He says his caucus hasn’t discussed bill, and he’s not sure if it’s the quote “exact right” solution to school violence.