With smartphones capturing the violence in public schools and the carnage being plastered across social media, a new law Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in May provides teachers with some legal protections if they jump in and break up a fight.
Teachers, who are often not trained on how to intervene, find themselves in a precarious position as they take heat for not breaking up fights but face potential charges if they use force against a student, according to CBS12 News.
Sophia Youngberg, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, spoke with the affiliate and voiced that very concern.
“Because of the students filming everything, the teachers are afraid to interfere or intervene because they might be accused of assault or some other crime,” Youngberg said.
And that’s where Florida’s new Teachers Bill of Rights comes into play.
More from CBS12 News:
It says teachers may use reasonable force, according to standards adopted by the state board of education, to protect themselves or others from injury.
And if a teacher is charged or sued for what they did to break up a fight, they’ll be provided legal representation. The law doesn’t specify if that would fall on the union or the state.
Finally, if a teacher feels they aren’t being supported by district officials, they can request a special magistrate to look at the case.
While Gov. DeSantis received widespread negative coverage over a Parental Rights law that protected children from sexual indoctrination in the classroom — the dishonest media often refers to the legislation as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — there has been little, if any focus on the Teachers Bill of Rights.
But Youngberg appreciates the Republican governor seeing the issue as a priority.
“The staff and the teachers need to be given the benefit of the doubt that they are doing it for the right reasons — to protect not only the students who are fighting from hurting each other, but the other students who are around them,” she said.
CBS12 News noted that students are being more disruptive than ever since the pandemic, citing federal data to say reports of classroom disruptions are up 56% nationwide.
Middle school social studies teacher William Rizzo explained the effects smartphones have during a conflict.
“Listen, kids run to a fight instead of running away from it, they run to it and most of them whip out their phones and start filming,” Rizzo said. “I have done that many times, gotten in the middle of both girl fights and boy fights, splitting them apart, picking them off each other and pushing them back to a safer place and usually I stand in between them and by then an administrator comes.”
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