MADISON — A Republican state lawmaker says Wisconsin is among the top three in the country when it comes to attacks and threats against teachers, and his plan to stop it isn’t going over well with some.
The so-called “Teacher Protection Act” would make a series of changes so teachers could find out when one of their students has been arrested for a violent crime. It would allow teachers to discipline students more severely.
Critics say it’ll put more students, especially minorities, in prison.
Video showing a student beating a teacher at South Division High School in August sparked outcry in Milwaukee — and this is far from the only incident.
In Wisconsin, 11.3 percent of teachers said they were assaulted in the 2011-2012 school year, the highest percentage in the country, according to federal data
“A pretty shocking statistic,” Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac said.
Thiesfeldt, who taught for 20 years, said school administrators are scared to expel too many students because of scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education.
“To say that we don’t have a problem in this regard is putting our head in the sand. We do have a problem, and we need to address it,” Rep. Thiesfeldt said.
Thiesfeldt’s bill would force police to tell school districts when they arrest a student for a violent crime, and require administrators to tell teachers. Districts would have to report assaults on teachers to police within 24 hours. If administrators won’t suspend a student, teachers could appeal to the school board.
“This is a bill that would criminalize children, especially children of color. Especially children with special needs,” Amy Mizialko VP of MTEA, the Milwaukee teachers’ union said.
The teachers’ union called it a “manufactured crisis,” born out of cuts to public school funding and larger class sizes.
“When we have class sizes that go over 50 children, there’s something that we can control,” Mizialko said.
Thiesfeldt says politics are driving the union’s opposition to his bill.
“If this very same bill had a Democrat’s name on it, they would be supporting it,” Thiesfeldt said.
The bill would also require districts to tell teachers annually of their rights, including the use of reasonable force against a violent student.
Thiesfeldt, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said 12 lawmakers have signed onto his bill, all of them Republicans.