Mitch Daniels has now decided that discipline in schools might be a good idea. Wonder where he has been for the last three and a half years? Head under a rock? The realization that discipline is lacking in schools comes a little bit late, but, again, since this is an election year, Daniels is grabbing for anything he can hook.
Here’s what he says:
“It is to say if it’s necessary to remove a child, expel a child, stop a fight, you can do it and know that the law and your state government will stand with you.”
Sorry Guv, the state already stands with the teachers. Perhaps the Guv hasn’t spent enough time reading the Indiana statutes and case law referencing the rights of teachers to maintain control of their classrooms. Indiana already provides that teachers may take necessary measures to ensure student compliance by providing that school personnel stand in the relation of parents – in parentis loci – to the students.
The following are two statutes which already provide protection for teachers.
20-33-8-8. Responsibilities of school corporation and students — Rights of school corporation personnel.
(a) Student supervision and the desirable behavior of students in carrying out school purposes is the responsibility of:
(1) a school corporation; and
(2) the students of a school corporation.
(b) In all matters relating to the discipline and conduct of students, school corporation personnel:
(1) stand in the relation of parents to the students of the school corporation; and
(2) have the right to take any disciplinary action necessary to promote student conduct that conforms with an orderly and effective educational system, subject to this chapter.
(c) Students must:
(1) follow responsible directions of school personnel in all educational settings; and
(2) refrain from disruptive behavior that interferes with the educational environment.
20-33-8-9. Action to prevent interference with educational function — Removal of student.
(a) This section applies to an individual who:
(1) is a teacher or other school staff member; and
(2) has students under the individual’s charge.
(b) An individual may take any action that is reasonably necessary to carry out or to prevent an interference with an educational function that the individual supervises.
(c) Subject to rules of the governing body and the administrative staff, an individual may remove a student for a period that does not exceed five (5) school days from an educational function supervised by the individual or another individual who is a teacher or other school staff member.
The legislature is not the only branch of our Indiana government that protects teachers; the courts have also come down on the side of teachers. In State v. Fettig, 884 N.E.2d 341 (Ind. App. 2008), the teacher lightly slapped a student on the cheek. The student reported the incident and a lawsuit followed alleging battery against the teacher.
The Court stated:
In general, “[a] person is justified in engaging in conduct otherwise prohibited if he has legal authority to do so.” I.C. § 35-41-3-1. This statute has been interpreted to provide legal authority for a parent to engage in reasonable discipline of her child, even if such conduct would otherwise constitute battery. Dyson v. State, 692 N.E.2d 1374, 1376 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998). Although there is a dearth of recent case law addressing the subject, this same justification has long been extended to teachers as well, as long as the teacher acts within the limits of her “jurisdiction and responsibility as a teacher.” Vanvactor v. State, 113 Ind. 276, 15 N.E. 341, 342 (Ind. 1888). Moreover, teachers are given, in addition to the presumption of innocence shared by all criminal defendants, a presumption of having done their duty when punishing a student.
The court granted the teacher’s Motion to Dismiss, thus supporting the teacher’s right to use reasonable discipline even if the conduct would normally constitute battery.
The Guv appears to be a day late and a dollar short. The legislature and the courts already provide protection to teachers in their handling of disruptive student conduct. Legislation cannot bar lawsuits, so it is questionable what other action Daniels would take – especially since statutory law and case law appear to be on the side of the teacher.
Daniels is grasping for straws on this one by pandering to teachers. By pushing the idea that they have no protection when it comes to meting out punishment, Daniels is once again misleading the public, and, in particular, those who teach our students on a daily basis. But, hey, it is, after all, an election year.