Ind. lawmakers pass teacher lawsuit shield

Gary legislators want schools to revisit discipline policies
2009-04-22T00:00:00Z Ind. lawmakers pass teacher lawsuit shieldPatrick Guinane, (317) 637-9078

INDIANAPOLIS | A measure supporters hope will mean greater legal protection for teachers who mete out appropriate student discipline cleared the Indiana House on a unanimous vote Tuesday.

House Bill 1462, which now heads to Gov. Mitch Daniels, would provide "qualified immunity" to educators who follow school procedures while breaking up a fight or disciplining students. The proposed law is designed to make it easier for judges to dismiss lawsuits brought by parents who disagree with disciplinary actions.

"If a fight breaks out in the classroom, the teacher, on the one hand, is required to break up the fight," said the legislation's author, Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute. "On the other hand, if he breaks it up, he's going to wind up in court. It's just an attempt to bring a reasonable system back to teaching, make sure teachers ...will be protected."

Daniels, Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett -- all Republicans -- pushed for the legislation during their fall campaigns. Zoeller has committed to defending school officials sued under the new standard, which the governor is expected to sign into law.

The House also voted 97-2 on Tuesday to send the governor legislation requiring school districts to work with parents to develop graduated disciplinary plans that shy away from immediate suspensions or expulsions. Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said he authored House Bill 1419 after a recent state study showed minorities tend to receive harsher school punishments.

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