Chapter 37: your right to a safe school environment

Many educators and support personnel have complaints regarding discipline issues. Teachers feel that they have no authority to rid their classroom of chronic discipline problems. Support personnel fear that their jobs will be jeopardized if they are ever in a situation that requires them to use physical force. These issues and others can lead to stressful and difficult work environments. Knowing your rights and responsibilities regarding discipline issues can help alleviate some of that stress. Here’s some information that may be useful.

Chapter 37—The Safe Schools Act

Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code provides educators with authority to manage their classroom in certain situations.  A teacher has absolute authority to send a student to the camus behavior coordinator’s office to maintain effective discipline in the classroom. The statute requires the campus behavior coordinator to respond by employing the appropriate discipline management steps outlined in the district’s student code of conduct. 

For a more permanent solution, a teacher may remove from his/her class a student who has been documented by the teacher to “repeatedly interfere” with the teacher’s ability to teacher or with the other students’ ability to learn.  While this provision requires documentation of “repeated interference,” a teacher may also remove from his/her class students whose behavior is extremely disruptive, abusive or unruly, even if it is a one time occurrence.  To facilitate the removal process, the teacher must simply provide his/her principal with the documentation of the incident(s), and ask that the student be removed according to the Texas Education Code.   

Once the student is removed, the student may only be returned to the teacher’s class with the teacher’s consent or if the campus’s Placement Review Committee (“PRC”) determines that returning the student is best or only alternative.  The PRC is a three-member committee that is chosen jointly by the faculty and the principal.  The principal may appoint one member and the faculty chooses the other two.  A teacher seeking the removal of the student may not be a member of the committee.

Use of Force Against Students

If at all possible, physical contact with students should be avoided.  In the real world of hallway fights and scuffles on the school bus, though, some physical contact with students is inevitable. 

The Texas Legislature realized that physical force with students is sometimes necessary.  As a result, section 22.0512 of the Texas Education Code was passed in 2003.  This statute protects most school district employees from discharge or suspension for the employee’s reasonable use of physical force against a student, if such force would be justified under the Penal Code.  Teachers are also protected from sanctions against their certificates under this statute.  It is important to note, though, that this statute does not allow employees to violate a district’s corporal punishment policy.  If a district prohibits corporal punishment, don’t engage in the practice.

Assault Leave

School district employees are physically assaulted during the performance of their regular duties are entitled to up to two years paid leave to recuperate from any physical injuries sustained as a result of the assault.  The employee has the responsibility to request assault leave from the district.  Upon receiving the request, the district is required to immediately place the employee on assault leave.  The district may then investigate the claim to determine if assault leave is appropriate.  If the district determines that there was not an assault, or that assault leave is not appropriate for any other reason, the district may charge the days absent to the employee’s accrued leave.  Once the assault leave is approved, days of leave taken under the assault leave provision may not be charged back to the employees accrued leave. 

If you or any other TSTA member is having difficulties with a disruptive student, has been assaulted by a student, or is facing disciplinary consequences for the use of force against a student, contact the TSTA Help Center immediately.  We are here to help you assert your rights.