Bill to ‘Protect Teachers Rights’ gains bipartisan support; heads to House floor

A new bill gaining support called the "Protecting Teachers Rights Act" aims to give teachers additional protection on the job.
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 6:49 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A new bill gaining support called the “Protecting Teachers Rights Act” aims to give teachers additional protection on the job.

Under current law, teachers in Louisiana are already protected from liability if they need to step in and intervene during a fight between students. But state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, says the way it’s currently written could be stronger, which is why she authored HB 86.

“I just feel like we need to give teachers as much protection, if there is any intent to cause bodily harm then obviously, they need to be prosecuted just as with a police officer,” said Rep. Hodges.

If there is a fight on campus, and a teacher’s actions are proven to be justified, her bill would protect them from being sued in civil court or facing criminal charges.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the kids in these fights, and I’m sure you’ve watched some of them, but it’s like a free-for-all,” added Hodges.

Representatives Raymond Garofalo Jr., R-Chalmette, and Delisha Boyd, D-New Orleans, agreed with Hodges.

“I think that this is really a smart thing to do,” said Rep. Garafolo. “We don’t want to hurt our teachers or discipline them or have them held liable should they do what they should be doing.”

“I think it’s a great bill as well, definitely needed,” added Rep. Boyd. “I know personally several teachers who are literally afraid to even intervene or interact with children who are out of control.”

The bill galvanized lawmakers from both parties, especially when it was noted the bill would not apply to teachers who are bad actors. Although no teachers were present during committee discussions, Rep. Hodges says her conversations with them are what you would expect.

“They were short of cheering and saying we’re so excited and thank you. I got text messages after the bill because it passed without opposition. You know, we’re losing teachers. Teachers are leaving or retiring and not coming into this profession and that’s part of the reason,” explained Rep. Hodges.

“We’re looking for some changes to the bill,” said Angela Reams-Brown with the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers. “We spoke with Representative Hodges, and she’s agreed to amend the bill to ensure that teachers and school employees as well as administrators are not falling victim to unintended consequences. Once the representative makes the amendments to the bill that we’ve asked to ensure this then we’re all for it 100%.”

The bill next heads to the House floor where lawmakers will take it up for a full debate.

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