West Texas school districts respond to new state law that focuses on the harassment of teachers
The hallways at Rankin High School are empty for now, but students will be back in August and Senate Bill 2432 won't be far behind - as the new law goes into effect in September.
Senate Bill 2432 is a law that focuses on punishing students who harass teachers, faculty or staff.
"I think the new law is a good thing, anytime we support teachers in the classroom," Rankin ISD Superintendent Samuel Wyatt said. "But, I do think schools need to be cautious and make sure they go through due process."
The law would apply to students who "harass" teachers and staff.
Harassment under state law includes threatening to physically hurt, making repeated phone calls in a way that's likely to annoy, alarm, or abuse, and making an "obscene" comment.
Students who are deemed harassers will be moved to disciplinary alternative education programs or DAEP.
The Ector County ISD Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said safety in schools is already their top priority, and the new law will complement the school district's current discipline procedures.
"We know we've had incidents of fights, we've had to have our police react - those are things we don't want to see, but we have processes in place to deal with it already," Adkins said. "The law itself doesn't change - maybe adds a little bit to it - but it doesn't change the processes that we have in place.
He added, "We absolutely want to be fair and just in what we do, and that's probably the biggest challenge."
Over in the Rankin 1A school district, the superintendent told us that they don't run into many problems concerning the harassment of teachers.
Although, Wyatt explained that disciplining the student in these harassment cases is one thing - but helping the student succeed in the future should also remain a priority in public schools.
"You don't want to just curtail the behavior, you also want to help fix the problem," he said. "Whether it's emotional - or what is the underlying issue that is causing that kid to act out?"
In the end, Superintendent Wyatt said making teachers feel comfortable is important to keep them in the classroom, especially during an oil boom.
"It's hard to find good teachers, and if students run over them in ways that are persistent, pervasive or threatening it can be an uncomfortable environment for teachers," Wyatt said.
Before students are placed into DAEP, both Ector County ISD and Rankin ISD handle their discipline issues on a case by case basis through a strict investigation. They said they will continue with that same formula going forward.