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IOWA: Educators call for more $$$ to address classroom violence

Feb 7, 2020, Waterloo (IA) Courier: Iowa lawmakers seek ways to address violence in schools Educators welcome changes to deal with violence in K-12 schools, but many speakers at a public meeting Wednesday evening said what is most needed is more funding to bolster staff and lower class sizes. “No one is going to sit here and say that this bill is the solution, but it’s a step that our schools believe is very, very important,” Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards, told a House Education subcommittee working on a bill aimed at addressing student behavior that disrupts classrooms. Two companion bills — House Study Bill 598 and Senate Study Bill 3080 — are moving through the Legislature that provide incentives to schools looking to use “therapeutic classrooms” and other options to address increased classroom violence. Along with offering specialized spaces in schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized attention, the legislation provides guidelines for actions school employees can take to address violent behavior and funding for training and employee protections from disciplinary action by a school. “This bill is about providing a safe classroom environment for teachers and for students and for making sure that all children get the most appropriate education possible,” Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, told members of the Senate Education Committee, which voted 8-5 Wednesday to advance SSB 3080 to the Senate debate calendar. But that’s not the case in many Iowa schools, said Mark Felderman of Professional Educators of Iowa, who surveyed his members and found 52% said they had experienced or witnessed violence in their school. “That’s a lot. That’s amazing,” he told the House subcommittee. Also, more than 65% of the association’s members “have had room clears in their schools,” Felderman said. “We feel like that is unacceptable.” Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association, said her members report similar experiences and “behavioral issues in the classroom are something that we are dealing with more and more frequently.” Peterson said the bills under study provide a little reassurance that “somebody in that building is going to have their back” when dealing with unruly students. But, she added, the legislation “is attempting to address a symptom. It is not addressing the problem.” Peterson said one reason for the escalation of violence in classrooms is the lack of staffing, increasing class sizes due to insufficient funding and a lack of community services for children that spill into the education setting. Margaret Buckton, who represents both rural and urban school associations, told legislators the problem “wasn’t created by lack of funding, but it’s compounded by it.”… SSB 3080 provides that school employees also may physically touch a student if they are “relocating” someone to defuse a disruptive situation and it enhances protections for employees in situations where a student is moved or restrained to protect others. …


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