Malloy, teachers battle over veto of safety bill

Malloy, teachers battle over veto of safety bill

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Friday stood by his veto of a bill to address classroom safety, despite calls from the state’s largest teachers’ union for the legislature to override the veto.

Each side claims they were looking to address the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, a phenomenon linking school discipline to criminal arrests later in life, in taking their stances. 

On Thursday, Malloy announced his veto of the legislation, which requires local boards of education to address daily classroom safety in their school safety plans and to report to the state Department of Education on their annual progress.  

It also allows teachers to refer students out of the classroom if they violate the “daily classroom safety,” a term defined as an “environment in which students and school employees are not physically injured by other students, school employees or parents, or exposed to such physical injury to others.”

It also expands intervention and prevention strategies under state law to expand interventions with individual children and promote more parental involvement.

The Senate unanimously supported the bill, while the House approved it with a 124-25 vote. Malloy’s veto Thursday drew a quick response from the Connecticut Education Association urging lawmakers to override the governor. 

CEA Executive Director Don Williams said the legislation would give teachers and administrators the flexibility to handle students who cause problems without issuing harsh punishments, while also maintaining classroom safety and order. 

He said schools in the past have relied on suspension and expulsion, but the DOE has sought to end those practices as research indicates students who receive harsh discipline are more likely to face arrest and imprisonment when they are older. 

Advocates for ending the school-to-prison pipeline also argue that minorities often face harsher penalties than white students for similar conduct, meaning they’re also disproportionately affected by the phenomenon. 

Williams said the legislation would help address the problem. 

“If we don’t address the problems in the school today, they become problems in the community tomorrow, and we have young people getting involved in the criminal justice system,” he said Friday in an episode of the Morning Record, the Record-Journal’s daily news podcast. 

The bill had significant support from teachers and other education professionals who submitted testimony on the bill. The Connecticut School Counselors’ Association, for example, said the bill would be a way to steer students to counseling, addressing their mental health needs.

CEA pointed to a National Center for Education Statistics survey that found that 43 percent of responding teachers believe student misbehavior interfered with their teaching.

Malloy raised concerns in his four-page veto message that the bill could magnify the disproportionate effect of the school-to-prison pipeline if minorities and other groups of students are more frequently pulled from classrooms. 

He pointed to an analysis of a similar law that Texas adopted in 2005 that found that black students account for just 13 percent of preschool and elementary school population, but receive 47 percent of out-of-school suspensions. Another review found that special education students make up just 9 percent of student population, but account for 21 percent of out-of-school suspensions. 

“Research confirms that the best way to keep at-risk children from getting into legal trouble later in life is to maximize instruction time by reducing exclusionary discipline,” he wrote.


Twitter: @reporter_savino

Read Gov. Malloy's veto message

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