More teachers across the state are saying students are becoming harder to discipline and that they have less recourse to address disruptions in class. A new bill proposed by a Shawnee state senator is aimed at providing a new system for student discipline while keeping students in school.
The new bill titled “Senate Bill 911” was introduced by Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee). Sharp said he taught civics and history classes for 38 years at Shawnee High School before joining the state legislature.
“This is the number one problem in education.” he said.
SB911 would give teachers a way control their classrooms without suspending or expelling students, which has become a more common tool for dealing with bullies and unruly students. Oklahoma is one of 19 states that still have corporal punishment as a resource for educators, according to the Center for Effective Discipline, although fewer teachers use it on students.
The bill would allow districts to hire volunteer judges that would be able to hand down punishments and fines. According to the bill’s text, districts can decide how large the fines would be for each offense but they could not exceed $50. Students under the age of eight and those in special education classes would be exempt from the “court.”
Money collected from the fines could be used for increasing campus security through updated systems and paid guards. It could also be used for small “character scholarships,” Sharp said.
Sharp also suggested the judge would be able to require community service, counseling or other punishments in lieu of a fine or suspension. But he said one thing was clear; classroom discipline was the number one problem facing Oklahoma schools.
“Now teachers are at a difficult situation in the classroom. They're facing adversarial and hostile conditions,” he said.
“In every single class you're going to have 3 to 5 kids that are going to make your life a nightmare every single day,” said Nick Cowan. Cowan is the senior class principal at Shawnee High School. He said most of the time teachers don’t want to suspend students because it often creates more problems and doesn’t solve the problem
“If they're suspended they still have the right to an education. It just means more work for the teachers and the parents and if they're suspended the student's not learning,” He said.
But for Sharp, who taught civics, history and US government, teaching kids discipline goes beyond the classroom.
“We have to get control. We are losing our schools and of course if we lose our schools we lose our society,” he said.
If passed, SB 911 would take effect July 1 and would start during the 2016-2017 school year.