10 Tennessee training legal guidelines that took impact July 1
10 Tennessee education laws, which went into effect July 1, were originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to public education. Sign up for their newsletter here: Chalkbeat.org/pages/newsletters
Tennessee aims to get rid of the remnants of the politically sensitive Common Core academic standards while educating students and their parents about their immunization rights, under dozen of new state laws that went into effect July 1st.
Public education is always a popular topic of state lawmakers, who filed nearly 400 bills related to K-12 schools this year. More than 40 of these were passed, including high-profile measures to establish summer and after-school learning programs and restrict the teaching of race and racism.
But other laws that didn’t necessarily make the headlines will also affect students and educators when they go into effect in the new state’s fiscal year.
Here are 10 measures that should be implemented in time for the new school year:
Common core materials
Tennessee officially retired Common Core in 2015 and switched to revised academic standards for English and math in 2017, which were billed as native. But a new law now officially bans textbooks or teaching materials that are solely targeted at – or marketed as – the common core.
State funds could be withheld from any district in which a teacher intentionally violates the ban. Republican sponsors said the intent is to close a loophole in cases where teachers may still be using Common Core materials. However, some publishers fear that high-quality teaching texts will be cleaned up across the board just because they have been marketed.
Tennessee adopted Common Core in 2010 as part of a bipartisan collaboration led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers. But former Governor Bill Haslam ordered a review in 2014 when the standards became embroiled in political controversy over allegations of federal transgression, in part because of incentives the Obama administration offered to states that adopted them.
Threat of mass violence
Judges are re-empowered to order a psychological assessment when a student makes a credible threat of mass violence on school premises or during school-related activity.
Previous law limited the court’s ability to detain a student for such evaluation, except on criminal charges. Bradley County law enforcement officials sought the new tool to assess the credibility of threats that could harm either the student or others.
The threats can be communicated in a variety of ways, including verbally or via social media, graffiti, and diagrams.
Teachers and school staff will now enjoy blanket immunity from civil lawsuits for using “reasonable force” against students in order to maintain order.
School employees, including school principals and bus drivers, are already protected from criminal liability for using appropriate force to correct or restrict students so that they do not harm themselves or other students. However, the sponsors of the new law said civil protection is also required so staff are not tempted to allow student wrongdoing for fear in court.
Democrats in the GOP-controlled legislature opposed the legislation, fearing the change could incentivize physical intervention.
The law admits that violence cannot increase to gross negligence, willful damage or willful misconduct. It also does not allow corporal punishment.
Bleeding control kits
Schools are authorized to receive potentially life-saving materials and training to help control bleeding in an emergency under the new Stop the Bleed program in Tennessee.
The law gives districts the power, but no obligation, to provide their schools with bleeding control kits that include a tourniquet and compression bandages. School staff can also be trained in bleeding control, essentially allowing them to act as first aiders in accidents involving accidental injuries or uncontrolled bleeding with limited civil liability.
Proponents say the law will be particularly helpful in rural areas where access to health care is limited, even though the law did not provide additional funding.
Any information shared with students or parents about government vaccination requirements for communicable diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella must now include information about exemptions.
For attending a public school, kindergarten, kindergarten, preschool or childcare facility, the state usually requires proof of the necessary vaccinations. However, a parent or guardian can request religious or medical exemptions.
The law also applies to universities.
Students with special needs
Only emergency situations can result in a student with special needs being isolated or placed in physical restraint as part of a 2008 law revision.
The school employee who has used isolation or restraint must contact the school management immediately after review and approval. The student’s parent or legal guardian must then be notified on the same day.
The changes are among the updates to a law aimed at keeping students with disabilities free from inappropriate, unsafe, or unjustified uses of isolation and restraint.
Transparency in the textbook
Tennessee residents are said to have more access to viewing educational materials for public schools under the Textbook Transparency Act.
The new law requires recognized editors of textbooks or educational materials to provide an online link to find these resources. Each district must either post this link on their website or direct visitors to a government website that provides textbooks and materials.
Flexibility of the teacher
Tennessee is giving school districts new flexibility to help existing teachers earn new recognitions without having to re-enroll in traditional teacher education programs.
The aim is to support schools in recruiting and retaining teachers in the subjects they need.
Legislation requires that the State Department of Education create an alternative way for teachers to receive training and receive additional endorsements as part of their certification. The teacher still needs to pass an exam to ensure they have the required content knowledge no matter how long they have been teaching.
Training for high school
Every high school in Tennessee will soon have an apprenticeship point of contact as part of Governor Bill Lee’s 2019 initiative to bridge the state’s talent shortage.
A new law aims to ensure that high school students can benefit from Apprenticeship TN, which coordinates with seven government agencies to increase the number of apprenticeships available. Each high school must appoint a person to connect students and employers through hands-on training and opportunities for staff.
Definition of a teacher
Tennessee lawmakers have been trying for years to find a way to ensure that government-funded teacher salary increases actually get into the pockets of teachers in the classroom.
A new law won’t guarantee this, but supporters believe it is a step in that direction.
In the distribution of government-funded increases in salaries to teachers, a teacher is defined as someone who has a government-issued license to teach and who spends at least 50% of his or her time teaching students.
With thousands of apprenticeships funded locally rather than through Tennessee’s Education Funding Formula, state officials acknowledge that the new definition does not guarantee every teacher an immediate raise if the state allocates more for that purpose.
Chalkbeat is a non-profit news site dedicated to educational change in public schools.