Randy Yohe Published

With W.Va. School Discipline At Crisis Stage, Remedies Offered

House Education Chair Joe Ellington. D-Mercer, consults with counsel on School Discipline bill.
House Education Chair Joe Ellington. D-Mercer, consults with counsel on School Discipline bill.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

State education groups say school discipline is at a near crisis level. A bill debated in the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday is intended to offer educators a tool to limit disruption in the classroom. 

House Bill 2890 gives school teachers and administrators more leeway in dealing with disruptive students. The bill attempts to define behavior that results from a personality clash between teacher and student and proposes moving that student to a different environment to protect the integrity of the class. The measure also charges county school boards to implement a preventive discipline program.

Democrats proposed several amendments to the bill, offering corrective safeguards for disruptive students but all were voted down.  

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, noted that the state has never implemented a legislative plan passed a few years ago to reduce West Virginia’s nationally leading rate of student suspensions and expulsions. He said the bill does not address root discipline causes.

“We’ve yet to see the plan. So what we’re doing today is the opposite of what this bill set out to do. This bill will lead to increased suspension and expulsion rates in a state that already unfortunately leads the nation in that rate,” Pushkin said. “I would urge you to really think about what you’re voting for here. This is going to be severely detrimental to the future of our state.” 

House Education Committee Chair Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, countered that the bill helps provide a better education for all students by properly and fairly dealing with discipline problems.

“Our obligation is to provide a safe and good environment for these children and the staff to be able to teach and learn,” Ellington said. “This bill was trying to help those teachers help those students that are having their education disrupted, but it’s also to help those kids that are being excluded to help them get into a different alternative learning process. Whatever works, that’s what it is. It’s just one extra tool.”

House Bill 2890, modifying school discipline, passed with a 79-16 vote and now goes to the Senate for consideration.