Stu­dent bill earns grade of ‘ in­com­plete’

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Opinion -

We’re not sur­prised that a bill about class­room fight­ing has re­sulted in a clash be­tween law­mak­ers and the gover­nor. One of Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy’s ve­toes last week drew far more at­ten­tion than the ac­tual pas­sage of the bill, which is de­signed to up­grade the process of re­mov­ing stu­dents from the class­room af­ter in­ci­dents in­volv­ing in­jury.

There’s Mal­loy be­ing Mal­loy again, his crit­ics and ri­vals chirped, em­brac­ing lib­eral prin­ci­ples so cav­a­lierly that he’s will­ing to put chil­dren and ed­u­ca­tors at risk.

In this case, the gover­nor doesn’t even have many law­mak­ers on his side. The House sup­ported “An act con­cern­ing class­room safety and dis­rup­tive be­hav­ior” by a 124- 25 vote, while it re­ceived zero op­po­si­tion from the Se­nate.

Mal­loy should not be ac­cused of hav­ing a knee­jerk re­sponse, how­ever. His veto came with a showand- tell pre­sen­ta­tion, com­plete with graph­ics.

True to his na­ture as a lawyer, Mal­loy of­fered ev­i­dence that black and His­panic stu­dents are sus­pended at more than twice the rate of their white peers.

As we’ve ( fre­quently) noted in the past, part of the chal­lenge in Con­necti­cut schools is the dis­pro­por- tion­ate im­bal­ance of teach­ers. Mal­loy mined that data as well, point­ing out that 92 per­cent of state teach­ers are white and 42 per­cent of our stu­dents are mi­nori­ties.

The Con­necti­cut Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, the state’s largest teach­ers’ union, im­me­di­ately re­leased a sharp re­buke to Mal­loy’s veto, claim­ing the bill pro­vided ser­vices and coun­sel­ing to the stu­dents who are ex­cluded from the class­room fol­low­ing in­ci­dents.

On Fri­day morn­ing, Se­nate Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Len Fasano deemed Mal­loy’s veto “dis­turb­ing.”

Mal­loy would surely agree with Fasano that “phys­i­cal vi­o­lence and threats have no place in our class­rooms and ( that) teach­ers need to be able to take ap­pro­pri­ate steps to keep their class­rooms safe.”

The chal­lenge is defin­ing those “ap­pro­pri­ate steps.” The nine- page bill doesn’t do that, and that’s why Mal­loy is onto some­thing when he says its lan­guage is too vague.

It calls for the state Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and lo­cal boards to craft up­dated poli­cies, which can only re­sult on a kaleidoscope of col­lid­ing philoso­phies.

Teach­ers, par­ents and chil­dren should not be con­fused by ill- de­fined poli­cies. There needs to be a boil­er­plate to work from, bet­ter clar­i­fy­ing de­tails such as the scope of in­juries. That’s where for­mer pros­e­cu­tor Mal­loy also sees po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial con­se­quences as, “it also cre­ates sig­nif­i­cant risks of lit­i­ga­tion and fed­eral penal­ties.”

Ob­jec­tion to the bill from the Black and Puerto Ri­can cau­cus that it re­in­forces “im­plicit racial ba­sis” should not be dis­missed. Nor should the is­sue that spe­cial needs stu­dents are po­ten­tially treated the same as those with be­hav­ioral is­sues. All prob­lems, like all peo­ple, are not the same. Ev­ery­one in Con­necti­cut can, and should, rally be­hind the goal of safe class­rooms.

This is a noble mea­sure, but won’t be com­plete with­out the sup­port of the likes of the Black and Puerto Ri­can cau­cus.

As in any class­room, this is­sue re­quires more home­work and less fight­ing.

The chal­lenge is defin­ing those “ap­pro­pri­ate steps.” The nine- page bill doesn’t do that, and that’s why Mal­loy is onto some­thing when he says its lan­guage is too vague.

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