OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican state senator from Shawnee who says a lack of student discipline is one of the biggest problems facing teachers today said Thursday he may push a bill next session to make it a felony crime for a student to assault a teacher.
Sen. Ron Sharp, a retired educator who taught for more than 30 years, held an interim study on the topic of student discipline before the Senate Education Committee and heard testimony from teachers and educators who says the problem is worsening.
“For me this is one of the most serious problems that we’re facing now in education in the state of Oklahoma — a lack of discipline,” Sharp said. “Teachers rank that even above low pay as their No. 1 problem. Parents rank it as their No. 1 concern, too.”
Dale Superintendent Charlie Dickinson said an enthusiastic, passionate teacher is the best thing for combating student discipline problems, but with an increasing list of state mandates and a starting salary of $31,000, he said many teachers feel overworked and underpaid.
“They’re fed up, and that’s a problem for us,” Dickinson said.
Individual Oklahoma school districts can authorize the use of corporal punishment, or paddling students, but Sharp said most districts don’t allow it because of liability concerns.
Dickinson said students in Dale can be paddled, but he said the district has moved away from it in recent years.
“If you’ve swatted a kid a couple of times, and he comes back to your office the next week, it obviously isn’t working,” he said.
Bill Nelson, assistant superintendent for Byng Public Schools, testified to the committee about two school administrators in his district who were attacked by students trying to break up a fight between two students. He said the local prosecutor could only charge the students with a misdemeanor because the teachers weren’t seriously injured, and he urged lawmakers to consider a proposal that would let any student who assaults a teacher be permanently removed from a school.