Though it clearly defies state law and the Louisiana Teacher Bill of Rights, Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux is calling for the adoption of a new disciplinary “philosophy,” one that is tantamount to a transfer of power from principals to teachers.

Babineaux’s agenda item is listed as an introductory item on Wednesday's meeting agenda, meaning the board will only discuss the
 Photo by Robin May
Mark Allen Babineaux

Listed on tonight’s agenda as an “Adoption of a philosophy allowing the teacher to be the final arbiter of discipline in the classroom,” the summary of Babineaux’s pitch for the new philosophy reads:
In conjunction with the Teacher’s Bill of Rights, all discipline policies and procedures should be amended to include the teachers [sic] right to refuse readmission of a student to his or her classroom if the student has threatened or assaulted the teacher or another student, the student has been referred out of the classroom more than twice for disruption or more than three times for any reason. This refusal can be permanent at the option of the teacher. Any teacher who exercises this refusal shall not be subject to any coercion, discipline, reprimand, retribution, reassignment or dismissal, or any action that would adversely affect their performance scores or evaluations as to their competence.
Yet, according to a legal opinion from Monroe-based law firm Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, which was distributed this morning to the local media by school system officials, Babineaux’s new philosophy doesn’t jibe, at all, with the disciplinary laws established under Louisiana’s Teacher Bill of Rights or state law.

The legal opinion, dated April 16, states:
Revised Statutes 17:416 comprises the heart of the student discipline law in Louisiana. Pursuant to this statute, the principal and teachers work together in seeing that discipline is maintained in the classroom, at recess and at extracurricular activities. While the teacher enjoys certain authority, such as the ability to make referral of disruptive students to the principal, it is the principal who makes the ultimate determination as to what discipline will be imposed upon the student. Having the principal in charge of such decisions ensures that a uniform application of the student code of conduct is applied throughout the school as opposed to allowing the various teachers to impose different punishment for the same or similar infractions. Moreover, [La. RS 17:416] is very specific that it is the principal who suspends the student and recommends the student for expulsion in the event of a serious offense. As referenced above, teachers do enjoy certain rights, such as the removal of a disruptive student from the classroom and the right to request that the principal transfer a student who persistently disrupts the classroom to another setting.

In short, teachers have the right to remove disruptive students from the classroom so that appropriate discipline may be imposed by the principal. However, it is the principal who has the ultimate authority for the imposition of such discipline up to and including suspension and expulsion.

Perhaps Babineaux will read what state law says on the issue before tonight’s meeting, pull the item and save us all from what likely will turn into a lengthy, and for the most part, pointless debate over an issue already dictated by law.

We’ll keep you posted.

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