The Classroom Teacher, summer 2015

TCTA believes that teachers are responsible for classroom management, but discipline should be addressed – effectively – outside of the classroom. This was the premise behind the legislative proposal that became SB 107.

Origin

Over the years, hundreds of TCTA members have called in to the TCTA legal department with a common concern. Disruptive students are sent to the principal and sent right back to the classroom, with little to no change in behavior. 

Decades ago, Texas law provided a relatively strict model for principals to follow when a student was sent out of the classroom, and required that, after the third incident of a teacher removing a student for disruptive behavior, the student could only be returned upon a decision by the school board. 

In subsequent years, the laws regarding teacher removals have been weakened, strengthened and revised by the legislature, and while current law still ensures the right of a teacher to remove a disruptive student from the classroom, it has not – until now – provided much guidance for what should happen next.

TCTA’s first attempts

TCTA staff developed a proposal that would require that every campus have a designated discipline officer, and in 2009 persuaded then-House Public Education Committee Chair Rob Eissler to file it. From the beginning, the idea was to require the “campus discipline officer” to employ discipline techniques that could reasonably be expected to improve the student’s behavior, and to help ensure that discipline would be the responsibility of this individual, rather than the teacher.

That first session, the bill received a hearing in the House Public Education Committee, but was never voted out. A portion of it – the designation of the CDO who would be responsible for employing techniques that should improve behavior – was added to a different discipline bill in the Senate, but was eventually stripped out.

Fast forward to 2015. One of the best friends teachers have in the Texas Senate, John Whitmire of Houston (a former TCTA Friend of Education) filed SB 107. The bill was very concerning to TCTA lawyers because it changed mandatory removals throughout the Education Code to permissive removals; for example, under current law a student would have to be removed from the classroom for making a terroristic threat, and SB 107 would have left it to the discretion of the teacher. Though the intentions behind the bill were good, the effect would likely have been that teachers would be pressured to decrease removals of students from the classroom. 

TCTA’s lobbyists sat down with the senator and his staff, told him why we were concerned, and gave him our idea as an alternative. He responded by completely substituting his bill with TCTA’s language, and eventually it was passed by the Senate and House and signed by the governor.

SB 107

  • Requires every campus to have a campus behavior coordinator (CBC), which may be the principal or another administrator selected by the principal.
  • States that the CBC is primarily responsible for maintaining student discipline.
  • Provides that a teacher can send a student to the CBC to maintain discipline in the classroom. The CBC must respond by employing appropriate discipline management techniques consistent with the student code of conduct that can reasonably be expected to improve the student’s behavior. 
  • If the behavior does not improve, the CBC must try alternative techniques, including any progressive interventions specified in the code of conduct as the responsibility of the CBC.

Q. Is there a certain or limited number of days that the CBC can send a student to ISS and back to class repeatedly before applying a more progressive intervention?

A. The law includes an expectation that the CBC’s efforts “can reasonably be expected to improve the student’s behavior.” In other words, the law requires a CBC to take meaningful action and not simply ignore the problem, delay doing anything, or do the same thing repeatedly regardless of a lack of success.

Q. Does this include special education students who don’t have behavior plans?

A. The simple answer is “yes,” but this assumes that the teacher would know if a special education student had a behavior plan because school administrators would have given that plan to the teacher as required by law (another TCTA-initiated bill that passed in a prior session). TCTA members should contact the TCTA Legal Department (888.879.8282) to ask questions related to the behavior of special education students and teacher options.

Q. Can a principal delegate the responsibilities of the campus behavior coordinator to the counselor?

A. The bill did not envision that counselors would be delegated this responsibility, and specifically requires that the CBC be a campus administrator.

Q. Our principal believes in giving students treats or time away from class without consequence when teachers send students to the office. Students return to class bragging about getting treats and announcing that they do not have to listen to us when we redirect their off-task conduct. Does SB 107 address that kind of conduct?

A. A campus behavior coordinator is legally responsible for campus student discipline and for implementing the new law; a CBC cannot simply act in way that is convenient or easy for the CBC and that neglects the CBC’s duty to take steps to help improve a student’s behavior. If the student’s behavior does not improve, the campus behavior coordinator must employ alternative discipline management techniques.

Q. What are the progressive steps for student discipline in the student code of conduct, and what are the alternative techniques CBC’s should use?

A. The new law does not prescribe specifically the behavior management tools a CBC should use. School boards may make some changes to their student codes of conduct to implement the new law, a process that could give teachers and/or the district-level committee a chance to recommend changes to supplement the discipline steps identified in the current student code of conduct. 

Q. What if a CBC isn’t appointed on my campus, or the designated CBC doesn’t do what he or she is supposed to do under the terms of the new law?

A. Call the TCTA Legal Department promptly to speak with a staff attorney. The provisions of SB 107 should give us a stronger argument in generating appropriate administrator responses.