House approves protection for teachers enforcing rules

Posted: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill protecting teachers who enforce behavior and safety rules in their classes was approved by the House on Monday.

House Bill 253 prohibits school boards from firing teachers, teaching assistants and principals for enforcing an approved discipline or safety program.

The bill requires school boards to adopt written standards for student behavior that reflect community standards. The standards are to lay out when a teacher is authorized to remove a student from a classroom.

Board members who approve the firing of an employee for enforcing the standards could be cited for a violation by law enforcement authorities.

The bill is the work of Rep. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, who noted an Alaska school district in which students were not penalized for using profanity and another in which teachers were afraid to report sexual abuse of students for fear of losing their jobs.

''These things I hope are absolutely isolated,'' Dyson said. ''But I can tell you it's a key issue for teachers, that their administration, their supervisors, will back them up when they enforce reasonable behavior and safety standards in the class.''

Dyson said a key part of the bill is setting community standards for students' behavior.

''This bill requires every school district to go through some process, of their choosing, to get the community and parent's input on what are the acceptable behavior and safety standards,'' Dyson said.

Dyson said the bill would ensure that standards set by the school board are the same as those in the community. He said putting them in writing could help teachers decide if they wanted to work in the community's schools.

Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, and Rep. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, questioned whether school board members should be subject to violations and fines if they act in good faith and a teacher is punished.

''I wonder what we do to the quality and the number of people who are willing to commit their personal time,'' Therriault said.

Dyson said school board members would have to ''knowingly'' take action against a teacher.

''This is a high standard and it will only be applied when the responsible party -- the superintendent of schools or the school board -- willfully and knowingly punishes or terminates a teacher who did the right thing,'' Dyson said.

The bill was approved 31-6. Rep. Jeannette James, R-North Pole, called for another vote on the bill.

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