For Immediate Release: January 22, 2014
Sen. Ron Sharp
Sen. Sharp offers alternative to suspensions and expulsions
for disruptive students
In an effort to address growing discipline problems
in public schools, Sen. Ron
Sharp has filed legislation offering schools an alternative
to suspending or expelling students for bad behavior. Senate Bill
1345 would allow school districts to voluntarily issue fines or
community service to students who misbehave as punishment rather
that giving them in-school or out-of-school suspension.
“I realize to some this may seem extreme but educators who
have to deal with disruptive students on a daily basis are in
desperate need of alternatives. The typical punishments for bad
behavior, including suspension and expulsion, are not stopping
kids from breaking the rules. In fact, school districts are seeing
suspensions and expulsions increasing because the kids don’t
care,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee.
Sharp pointed to a January 8, 2014 Oklahoman article that cited
a letter by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to public
school officials across the country acknowledging that changes
must be made to public school disciplinary policies.
In the letter, Duncan said, “the widespread use of suspensions
and expulsions has tremendous costs. Students who are suspended
or expelled from school may be unsupervised during daytime hours
and cannot benefit from great teaching, positive peer interactions
and adult mentorship offered in class and in school.”
SB 1345 would allow school districts to institute a system to
issue fines. If they decided to create a system, they would specify
the circumstances under which a student could be assessed a fine
not to exceed $50 per incident. The bill provides exceptions for
students under the age of eight and students on individualized
education programs (IEP) pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). If the child or his or her parents/guardians
did not want to or could not pay the fine, they could instead
agree to do community service including cleaning up the school
football stadium, gymnasium or other school property.
“We have to find a way to get these kids’ attention
and hold them accountable for their actions. They need to understand
that their actions will have repercussions. If they break the
law as adults, they’ll be fined and possibly be thrown in
jail,” said Sharp. “School is where we teach them
to be good adults. I think this could be a great life lesson for
disruptive students and could get them on the right path before
their misbehavior turns into dangerous or illegal activity.”
School districts that adopt a system for fines would need to establish
an appeals process. The districts would be authorized to employ
one or two administrative law judges to conduct appeal proceedings.
These could be paid or volunteer positions and the school district
would provide the judges with training on their policies and procedures.
Decisions of the administrative law judge could be appealed to
a local committee composed of district administrators, teachers
or both. Decisions of the committee could be appealed to the district
board of education.
“I’ve talked to many school superintendents around
the state and they’re open to the idea of being able to
issue fines. School administrators and teachers have run out of
ways to address the growing discipline problems in our classrooms.
We got rid of corporal punishment years ago and suspending students
isn’t working. We also learned during our interim study
last year on the issue that teachers and administrators are extremely
frustrated because they send kids to the counselor hoping that
will help and the students come right back and act the same way.
Nothing changes. It’s just become an excuse to get out of
class,” said Sharp.
Revenue collected from fines would be allocated by the district
board of education for the purchase of technology or the creation
of character scholarships.
“Instituting a system of fines would be a win-win for school
districts. It would help deter the bad behavior by showing the
students that the teachers and administrators are serious about
discipline. It would be financially beneficial for schools by
creating revenue for technology or scholarships to reward the
hardworking kids. The community service aspect would also save
the school money by not having to pay janitors as much over time
to clean the gyms, stadiums and other school property because
it could be done by the students,” said Sharp. “Teachers
and administrators are at their wits end with the discipline problems
and want more options. My bill is simply a suggestion that districts
could volunteer to use. If others have suggestions for how to
address this growing problem, we would love to hear those as well.”
Sharp taught for Shawnee Public Schools for 38 years.
For more information contact:
Sen. Sharp:(405) 521-5539