2000-03-11 / Editorial/Opinion

Protecting Our Teachers

Making schools safer has always been synonymous with "How do we protect our kids?" These days, it's also about, "How do we protect our teachers?" And the sad truth is we sometimes have to protect our teachers from our kids. The state senate is addressing this problem and tried to provide some answers with legislation that they approved this week.

As it stands now, if a student assaults a teacher or other school personnel, it is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail. The state senate bill (S6681) calls for raising assault on a teacher to a Class D felony that could result in a state prison sentence. This would hold the assault of a teacher to the same standards as assaulting a police officer, EMS worker or firefighter. The bill also calls for a study and annual report about crimes and suspensions in our schools.

This bill should become law. The state assembly needs to introduce and pass a similar bill so that it could go to Governor George Pataki, who supports the legislation.

We urge our assemblywomen, Audrey Pheffer and Pauline Rhodd-Cummings, to lead the charge and bring this to a vote in the assembly. Assemblywoman Pheffer said, "It's a good bill" and is working with colleagues to review the senate bill.

Disciplinary problems in the classroom continue to be an issue that plagues teachers. A common concern of teachers is how to handle disruptive, rude and often dangerous kids. This bill is a step in the right direction. We must have a no-nonsense approach to bad or harmful behavior against our teachers. If we can't find it in our financial means to pay teachers more for their invaluable service to society, the least we can do is value their lives.

 

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