New law aims to give Florida teachers more control

New state law tries to limit classroom issues, help teacher retention
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 6:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2023 at 9:42 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - When teachers return to the classroom in the next few weeks, they will have more resources to keep control of their classroom. A new law asserts that a teacher’s discipline is necessary to keep a safe classroom.

This comes as federal data shows more students are being disruptive in schools across the country. The National Center for Education Statistics said reports of classroom disruptions are up 56% since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“No one child should be able to disrupt the learning environment of the other students in the class,” Andrew Spar, Florida Education Association president, said.

During the 2021-2022 school year, there were more than 174,085 out-of-school suspensions across the state, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

That’s up from the 154,798 out-of-school suspensions during the 2018-2019 school year, the year before the pandemic.

A new state law is trying to fight those disruptions by codifying the “Teachers’ Bill of Rights.” It gives teachers the benefit of the doubt by assuming any discipline they use is to maintain a safe classroom.

“These rules allow kids to be kids and they allow our teachers to teach,” Florida Department of Education Chancellor Paul Burns said.

It also gives teachers an avenue to request a special magistrate if they feel they aren’t getting the support needed from their school. Burns said this is primarily to be used as a last resort.

“We would like for our teachers to go back and to begin that work through that process with their principal and with their district,” Burns said.

Teachers could already have students temporarily or permanently removed from their classroom if they are disruptive. Spar said he would like to see laws aimed at getting to the root of the disruptions instead.

“There’s a variety of reasons we see discipline challenges from students. I think we have to have several ways we approach them so we can make sure we really do have learning going on in the classroom,” Spar said.

Spar said adding money for school counselors and psychologists could help cut classroom disruptions.

This law also provides incentives to help recruit more teachers by offering signing bonuses to veterans and first responders who want to teach, launching a teacher apprenticeship program and a dual enrollment scholarship for teachers.