Legislation giving teachers more authority to relocate a student for safety reasons receives final approval

(NASHVILLE, TN), March 1, 2012 — The State Senate unanimously approved legislation today giving teachers more authority to relocate a student who poses a safety threat without fear of being found liable.  Senate Bill 3116, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), requires local education boards to adopt a policy authorizing a teacher’s ability to temporarily move a student to a different location for the student’s safety or the safety of others.  The bill also requires principals to fully support the authority of teachers in taking the action when it is done according to the policy.

Gresham said the genesis of the bill came as she listened to teachers who were concerned about liability while performing assigned duties or that a lawsuit could be brought against them if they try to remove a student during an altercation.  The legislation is supported by the Tennessee School Board Association, the Tennessee Teacher Association, and the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

The policy required under the measure would also cover teachers’ authorization to intervene in a physical altercation between two or more students or between a student and Local Education Agency (LEA) employee.  It also allows for the use of reasonable or justifiable force upon a student if the student is unwilling to cooperate and it becomes necessary to end the altercation by relocating the student to another area.

“We have been listening to teachers who are very concerned about their ability to perform their duties and protect other students or themselves without fear that they will be sued,” said Senator Gresham.  “Teachers should not have to fear they will be found personally liable for standing in a doorway to stop a physical altercation between two students.  They should have full authority to remove a student to another location even if it involves the use of force.”

If steps beyond the use of reasonable or justifiable force are required, the proposal says the student would remain in place until law enforcement officers or school resource officers arrive.

“This bill would apply to acts committed on school property, as well as those at official school functions, including sporting events and approved field trips,” added Gresham.  “In addition to teachers, it would apply to administrators, school support staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school resource officers, and others working in the school who interact with students.”

Gresham said teachers must file a brief report with the principal detailing the situation that required the relocation of the student.  If it is found that the student’s behavior violated the LEA’s zero tolerance policy, the report would become part of the student’s permanent record. The student is then subject to additional disciplinary action that may include suspension or expulsion from the school. The principal or their designee must notify the teacher involved of the actions taken to address the behavior of the relocated student.

The bill does not apply to special needs students.

“We must give our teachers the tools to maintain order and provide for the safety of their students, themselves, and others,” added Gresham.  “This bill would go far to accomplish this.”

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