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Minn. Lawmakers Craft Controversial Bill Aimed at Protecting Teachers From Assault

To address a series of incidents in which students have used violence against teachers, Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a bill that they say aims to "put teachers back in charge of classrooms and help protect staff from physical assault," according to the Associated Press.

Under the bill, presented this week by Jenifer Loon, a representative of the House Education Committee, school districts would be required to notify teachers of a student in their classroom with a violent past, and teachers would have the authority to remove any student deemed a safety threat. It would also require the Minnesota Department of Education to compile information and report on student violence against teachers.

"What my bill is attempting to do is provide some immediate relief for teachers and staff that feel they are having a dangerous situation that is occurring in their classroom," Loon said, as reported by KARE 11 News. "I do not know how we have schools and we have classrooms if we do not have someone in charge in the classroom—and that is a teacher."

The proposal, which is said to have bipartisan support, comes after a string of highly publicized assaults against teachers in Minnesota recent months. In December, a student attack in St. Paul left Central High teacher John Ekblad with a concussion and other health issues. Ekblad said the incident could have been prevented by the St. Paul Public Schools district, alleging that officials knew the student was a danger to others.

Deborah York, a former Edina, Minn., teacher who was the victim of an assault by a 1st grade student in a 2009, plans to testify in support of Loon's bill. York said that her injuries required three surgeries, forcing her to retire.

The proposed measure also calls for establishing a "Victims of School Violence Fund" to help pay the medical and legal costs for victims of assault.

However, the bill raised concerns among some lawmakers, who argued that it could lead to improper use of authority and that more study is needed on why assaults occur and why students of color are disproportionately disciplined before taking any action regarding student discipline and safety. One representative described the bill as a "Band-aid" instead of a cure to the problem.

The House Education Committee postponed any action on the bill for further consideration until lawmakers decide on what to include in their overall education package.

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