ST. PAUL, Minn. – A House Committee in the Minnesota Legislature took its first look at a bill by House Education Finance Chair Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie). The measure would require school districts to notify teachers of a documented violent student in their classrooms.
The bill is a result of recent incidents, particularly in the St. Paul District, in which teachers were allegedly assaulted by students. The bill would also require that the state keep track of how many such assaults occur and under what circumstances.
"Until now, I have been silenced from telling these truths, but I'm no longer going to be silenced," said retired first grade teacher Debbie York. In 2009, York says a student threw a chair at her. She says the injuries required three major surgeries, ending her career.
"How can teachers teach and students learn when they feel threatened and fear for their safety in the classroom environment?" York asked.
“What my bill is attempting to do is provide some immediate relief for teachers and staff people in their classrooms that feel they are having a dangerous situation that is occurring in their classroom,” said Loon.
Democrats on the committee expressed some reservations about Loon’s proposal, but were generally supportive.
“I do like that there’s a call here for districts to be held to a high level of accountability for maintaining climate safety in our schools,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul). “I think it is absolutely correct. I think there is something unfair about having individual teachers one by one trying to establish what that norm is for a school.”
Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) wonder aloud if the bill was a “band-aid” instead of “Pennicillin” needed to cure a problem.
“I do not know how we have schools and we have classrooms if we do not have someone in charge in the classroom and that is a teacher,” said Loon.
The committee took no action on the bill Tuesday. It was “laid over” for further consideration.