Officials report that legislation enacted during last year’s regular session of the state Legislature has had positive effects on teachers and students in grades six through 12. In the current session, lawmakers are deliberating on a separate yet similar bill that would extend these benefits to primary schools.
Governor Jim Justice signed House Bill 2890 into law on March 28, 2023, granting teachers in grades six through 12 the authority to remove students from their classrooms due to disorderly conduct. House Bill 4776 seeks to extend this discretion to primary school teachers as well. According to Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, the aim of the bill is to prevent a disruptive student from hindering the rest of the class from receiving instruction or the teacher from delivering it effectively.
“We aim to provide the student with a chance to improve their behavior. They will have three strikes within a 30-day period to achieve this,” stated Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer.
Any student who is excluded will be placed under the supervision of the school principal or a designated authority.
According to the bill’s provisions, the excluded student may only return to the classroom or school bus upon receiving written certification from the principal or a designated authority. This certification must specify any disciplinary action taken, if applicable.
Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, emphasized the importance of upholding the constitutional mandate to provide a fair and free education to the majority of students, which can sometimes be hindered by disruptive behavior from a single student.
“In reviewing this bill, we observed that teachers showed significant interest and support for it,” stated Delegate Marty Gearheart.
Before the bill, teachers were required to report disruptive behavior within an hour of its occurrence, Gearheart explained. “This resulted in them having to use valuable class time for reporting,” he added. “Therefore, we extended the reporting requirement to 24 hours, allowing teachers to complete their teaching duties while ensuring timely reporting.”
SB 614, sponsored by Education Committee Chairwoman Amy Grady, R-Mason, is currently under consideration.
The bill targets students from kindergarten through sixth grade whose behavior in the classroom is violent, threatening, or intimidating toward staff and fellow students, thereby disrupting the learning environment. Under the proposed legislation, such students would be enrolled in a county behavioral intervention program.
This intervention program could be provided either by the county school system itself or by a neighboring county school system. In counties lacking behavioral intervention programs, students involved in such incidents would be temporarily removed from the classroom.