A new law allowing teachers to discipline students in school is set to take effect as students return to class in the new year. The bill was originally introduced in December of 2020 and was passed in April of 2021; sponsors for the bill were Representative Scott Cepicky (R- 64) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-28).

The bill was explained by the Tennessee General Assembly as it “establishes requirements and procedures for teachers to discipline students in the teachers’ classrooms, including relocation of a student.”

The new law states that teachers will be authorized to manage their classrooms and discipline their students. Teachers are allowed to send students to principals’ offices if needed, “and to hold students in the teacher’s charge strictly accountable for any disorderly conduct in school.”

It also said that any schools adopting the new law would be required to “include a provision authorizing teachers and administrators to enforce the student discipline policy or code of conduct and to hold students accountable for any disorderly conduct in school, on school buses, or at school-sponsored events.”

Teachers will also be allowed to remove disruptive students from their classrooms in order to maintain the safety of the other students. They will be allowed to use force, if needed, to remove the students – only if the use of force is justifiable and required due to the unwillingness of the student.

Teachers are allowed to intervene in a physical confrontation between students (or between a student and employee) and are allowed to do so only on school property or school-sponsored trips. If there is an altercation where a teacher must step in, they are then required to fill out a brief report with the principal which will then be put in either the student’s discipline file or permanent record.

Teachers are also allowed to send students to the principals’ office in order to manage a student’s behavior. The teacher must write a referral explaining the student’s behavior, which will be put into their disciplinary file, but not on their permanent record. The principal “must respond to a teacher’s disciplinary referral of a student by employing appropriate discipline management techniques that are consistent with the LEA’s or school’s policy.”

If needed, a teacher may also request for a student that “repeatedly or substantially interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the class or with the ability of the student’s classmates to learn” to be removed from their classroom. They must submit a written referral to the principal, and if proven to be necessary, the student will be removed from the classroom and either moved to another classroom, suspended, or placed in an alternative education program.

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Morgan Nicole Veysey is a reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter. Email tips to morgannicolewriting@gmail.com
Photo “Joey Hensley” by Joey Hensley and photo “Scott Cepicky” by State Representative Scott Cepicky.