OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation was approved late Wednesday to give local school boards an alternative to suspension and expulsion to keep unruly students in the classroom. Sen. Ron Sharp is the author of Senate Bill 911 to allow school boards to create a policy where teachers can assign community service for those students who misbehave rather than suspending or expelling them.
“Having been a teacher for 38 years, I know that suspension and expulsion only hurts a student further academically. It does nothing to address the child’s discipline problems and it typically puts the student further behind in their studies because they don’t do their work when they’re at home,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “We need to find an alternative that keeps students who misbehave in the classroom but still holds them accountable for their actions. Community service is a great solution.”
Sharp worked with the Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE); the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); and the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) in drafting the legislation.
SB 911 would allow local boards of education to have the option of adopting a system that requires students to perform community service for violating the district’s behavioral policy.
The measure passed 32-13 with those opposed raising concerns about students doing community service as a punishment. Sharp noted that good students who do not misbehave are required to do community service for many things.
“I was puzzled by some of the debate against this bill. Good, responsible students are required to do community service for the Boy/Girls Scouts and other community organizations as well as to apply for scholarships and other awards. Many do community service simply because they want to help others and be involved in their communities,” said Sharp. “I was disappointed in the debate suggesting that making unruly students do community service was somehow ‘child labor’ or a sign of ‘criminal behavior’. Educators simply want an alternative to keep these students in the classroom while teaching them respect and to take responsibility for their actions. They’re obviously not learning how to follow the rules at home and when they’re adults if they don’t follow the rules, they’ll be facing more serious consequences than community service.”
The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.