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'Safe Schools' Plan Runs Into Opposition

February 13, 1996
By: ELIZABETH MCKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The governor's "Safe School" plan to keep unruly kids from upsetting their classrooms has run into some Republican opposition.

Five Republicans on the House Science, Technology and Critical Issues Committee voted against the proposal when it cleared the committee Monday by a 12-5 vote.

But, the House Republican caucus leader said it wasn't necessarily partisan. "It's not that it's partisan, but that's it's a good piece of legislation. I don't support bad legislation," said Rep. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City.

Scott said he voted against the bill because it did not allow local school boards to expel students - even if there was not an alternative education program for the unruly students to attend.

"As far as I'm concerned, a disruptive student who's expelled is out on his ear," Scott said.

Under the safe-schools plan, districts would establish alternative schools for students whose behavior was disruptive to normal classes.

Rep. Pat Kelley, R-Kansas City, also voted against the bill. Kelley said the bill potentially could make schools more unsafe since school boards would not be allowed to expel students from their schools.

"There are limits and students know ultimately they can't be expelled," he said. "Again, it's supposed to make schools safer, but it could have the opposite effect." Kelley said he thought schools needed the ability to expel disruptive students.

But the bill's sponsor said he thought they could change the bill to deal with Kelley's and others' concerns. "It's a misunderstanding that can be worked out," said Rep. Steve McLuckie, D-Kansas City.

The committee approved one change in the proposal to better define when students could be moved into an alternative school.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Russell Gunn, D-St. Louis.

He said there were three things alternative education should address: behavior problem students, students that have a hard time learning and programs to help boost the self esteem of their students.

Gunn's amendment also added provisions to allow disruptive students to make it back into the mainstream.

"If we start closing doors, I think it would be defeating the purpose. Let's keep some doors open," he said.

"Those that don't want to be there leave. We see them walking down the street everyday. An alternative program gives them the chance to work back into the mainstream."