Bill to authorize restraint, removal of students pulled from committee

A bill that would give teachers legal protection for defending themselves and others against violent students was advanced to general file May 21 after a successful procedural motion.

As introduced by North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, the bill would authorize a teacher or administrator to “use the necessary physical contact or physical restraint” to control a student who becomes physically violent and authorize a teacher to have a disruptive student removed from the classroom under certain circumstances.

A teacher or administrator would not be subject to legal action or administrative discipline if he or she was acting in a “reasonable manner.”

Groene filed a motion to place the bill on general file, even though the Education Committee has not voted to advance it. Senators voted 25-14 to adopt the motion, which requires a majority vote of the Legislature.

Groene said the motion was appropriate because the committee is split 4-4 on whether to advance LB147 to the full Legislature.

“At the end of the day, we came to an impasse along political [and] ideological lines,” he said. “This situation, I believe, is why the pull motion is in our rules.”

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn supported the motion. She said advancing the bill to general file would pressure the state teachers’ union and an organization representing school administrators to reach a compromise.

Linehan said she successfully used the motion in a previous session to free a reading proficiency bill that was stuck in the Education Committee. After the bill reached the floor, she said, stakeholders worked harder to reach a compromise, which passed the following year.

“I think this is the same process,” Linehan said. “It focuses everybody—they will have to sit down at a table and figure out what we’re going to do.”

Glenvil Sen. Dave Murman also supported the motion, saying LB147 is important enough to warrant pulling it from committee.

“I think it’s time that we have this broader discussion on the floor,” he said.

Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha opposed the motion, saying it would undermine the Legislature’s committee process. Howard, chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee, said senators are subject matter experts on the issues that come before their committees and that the rest of the Legislature relies on them to vet bills.

“I think it’s concerning to see another leader in this body try to subvert the work of his own committee,” she said.

Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz also opposed the motion. She said the Education Committee discussed fewer than half the bills referred to it this session and that the committee spent more time on LB147, which was designated a committee priority, than any other proposal.

“I find it very disheartening—out of all the issues facing the education system in Nebraska—that this is the one we have prioritized, while at the same time we have so many other good bills to discuss sitting in committee,” Walz said.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln said she would not support Groene’s motion, saying stakeholders did not have enough time to reach a compromise. She said she was, however, willing to work with Groene on a proposed interim study on school safety.

“I thought we were going to get there this year on LB147, but we need more time,” Pansing Brooks said. “Important policies cannot be made without deliberation.”

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