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Alabama Teachers’ Bill of Rights: What You Need To Know

Alabama Teachers’ Bill of Rights: What You Need To Know


Alabama lawmakers have unanimously approved SB157, referred to as the “Teachers’ Bill of Rights,” on Tuesday, May 7th. The bill now waits for Governor Kay Ivey’s signature to become law and will go into effect for the 2024-2025 school year. The bill basically says that schools must take “decisive action” when a student is disruptive in class if the teacher feels it is necessary to remove the student. Under the new law, the principal must provide written notification detailing the disciplinary measures taken before the student can rejoin the teacher’s class.

Under the Principal’s Control

Specifically, the student who is removed from class must be “under the control of a principal.” The principal must “provide procedures relating to the return of an excluded student to the classroom.” The bill also “authorizes a school principal to suspend or recommend for alternative school when a student is excluded from the classroom three times in one month.” 

Teacher Immunity

The bill also requires each local board of education to create a process for a teacher to appeal a principal’s decision relating to a student’s return to the classroom. It also “provides immunity to education employees for civil and criminal actions related to the performance of their duties,” which is very vague and subject to different interpretations. What kind of criminal act would a teacher commit while trying to do their job that they would get immunity for? 

Reimbursement of Legal Fees

SB157 also says that “in certain circumstances,” it would require the Educators’ Liability Trust Fund to reimburse certain expenses for certain legal fees incurred by education employees. The Fund will also have to provide an annual report, which is surprising that it doesn’t already have to do that. 

What Kind of Misbehavior Are We Talking About?

The Alabama Teachers’ Bill of Rights defines certain terms, such as disorderly conduct. It specifically says that disorderly conduct means “any conduct that intentionally disrupts, disturbs, or interferes with the teaching of students; or disturbs the peace, order, or discipline at any school.” The bill goes on to specify what other behaviors might be referred to as disorderly conduct, such as “Threatens, abuses, intimidates, or attempts to intimidate an education employee or another student; willfully disobeys an education employee or uses abusive or profane language directed at an education employee.” 

Is it All on The Principal’s Shoulders?

The bill also says that the term “principal” refers to “The principal, assistant principal, vice principal, or administrative head of a school, or his or her designee,” so this is entirely on one person in the building. As stated above, the administrator can only send the student back to class once they provide the teacher with a written record of the disciplinary action, but they can’t send them back on the same day. The administrator must also contact the student’s parents about the incident. 

A Little Chat?

From my own experience, administrators do not have a lot of choices when it comes to disciplining a student. I would often send a student to the office for cursing me out, and they would promptly return with a message from an administrator that read, “Had discussion with student. Student understands he is not to use profane language towards the teacher again.” This almost never affects the student’s behavior in the future. 

Unrealistic Expectations for Discipline

According to this bill, what will happen if the student’s disruptive behavior persists? “Upon the teacher’s request, the principal shall mete out the maximum discipline provided for by the student code of conduct for the infraction, including, but not limited to, transfer to an alternative school that is approved by the local superintendent of education.” Also, the fact that the administrator cannot send the student back to class on the same day they were removed means the administrator might have dozens of kids to supervise, which is unrealistic. 

Three Times and Then What?

The bill also says that a student who is excluded from class for a total of three times in one 30-day period shall receive, as determined by the principal, he or she will receive an in-school or out-of-school suspension or may be recommended for placement in an alternative school if one is available within the school district. Suspension is something that rarely happens anymore because schools are very concerned with optics and keeping suspension numbers low, so I do not see this happening. 

What if the Principal Refuses to Take the Kid?

This law states that the “local board of education shall adopt a policy establishing an appeal process that allows a teacher to appeal to the local board of education if a principal refuses to allow a student to be excluded from the classroom or if a teacher believes the school principal has prematurely ended the exclusion of a student from the classroom.” Each local Board of Education will also require each school to collect data related to disciplinary action. The Board of Education will compile a report of the data collected from each school for the State Department of Education. The State Department of Education will then need to compile a report of the data collected from each local board of education for the Legislature by the first day of each regular legislative session.

Is This Realistic?

Overall, this is a very nice idea that is not very realistic. The bill fails to recognize the number of students with behavior problems. Schools do not have the space or staff to remove the amount of students in most schools who are regularly disruptive. It also barely addresses students with special needs who are disruptive. This is an issue that schools around the country struggle with every day. 

I would love to see the Alabama Teachers’ Bill of Rights as groundbreaking with the potential to make a large impact in schools, but like the Teachers’ Bill of Rights in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, etc., I do not see it making major changes or being seriously adhered to. 

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.

Chris Mehigh

Tuesday 14th of May 2024

The problem we've had is typically with kids who cannot control themselves, and their IEPs say this is a manifestation of their disabilities. I don't see anything specific in this legislation that addresses how to get these kids removed so the others can learn.