Bill would help school volunteers

Sen. Ron Sharp filed legislation to ensure more Oklahoma teachers and other school employees who volunteer at school functions are protected from student violence and threats. Senate Bill 81 will add third, fourth and fifth grade students to the list of those who will be subject to out-of-school suspension if they are violent towards school personnel. “School employees’ hands are tied when it comes to disciplining students. They have very few ways to discipline unruly students and disciplinary problems are occurring at a younger age every year,” said Sharp. “I want to thank the Professional Oklahoma Educators for bringing this issue to my attention and helping with the drafting of this bill.”

Under SB 81, any third through twelfth grade students who assault, attempt to cause physical bodily injury, or act in a manner that could reasonably cause bodily injury to an education employee or a person who is volunteering for the school would be subject to out-of-school suspension.

SB 81 was requested by the Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE). The organization’s executive director, Ginger Tinney, said the change is necessary to protect school employees especially teachers.

“Several incidents in Oklahoma schools have occurred in which teachers have been physically harmed by children in the 3rd and 4th grades. The existing teacher public safety law currently applies to children in the 6th through 12th grades,” said Tinney. “Professional Oklahoma Educators is, therefore, requesting that this law be modified to apply to 3rd through 12th graders. It is imperative for the State of Oklahoma to provide a safe working environment for teachers.”

Last session, Sen. Sharp passed SB 911, which allows boards of education to create policies that allow for alternatives to suspensions for parents who are opposed to that form of discipline.   Schools can instead require in-school service or some other punishment agreed to by the district and parent.