A small change in words could make a big difference for students who get into trouble and for the educators charged with keeping them in line.

House Bill 1169, authored by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, calls for a simple editing of Indiana law. The change, educators say, would allow them to deal with changing problems, including cyber-bullying.

According to current law, a student “may be suspended or expelled for engaging in unlawful activity on or off school grounds if:

  • “The unlawful activity may reasonably be considered to be an interference with school purposes or an educational function; or
  • “The student’s removal is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property.”
  • The law also applies to “an unlawful activity during weekends, holidays, other school breaks, and the summer period when a student may not be attending classes or other school functions.”

    Koch’s bill strikes the word “unlawful” from those provisions. If the bill becomes law, Koch said, schools would have more authority to suspend or expel students for off-campus incidents.

    “All students deserve a safe and conducive learning environment,” Koch said in a prepared statement. “In limiting grounds for suspension and expulsion to only ‘unlawful’ conduct, current law ties the hands of school officials to effectively deal with dangerous and disruptive behavior, including cyber bullying.”

    According to Koch’s office, the bill is getting support from educational leaders.

    “Because many threats and intimidating behaviors are now passed through technological means, the current student discipline statutes which speak to ‘unlawful’ activity are outdated,” John Ellis, executive director of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, said in a prepared statement. “Cyber-bullying from a computer not owned by the school; cheating (including posting tests or answers on the web); and most conduct that disrupts the progress of other students are not defined as unlawful. This bill stands up for student rights regardless of where the violation of student conduct rules originated.”

    Frank Bush, executive director of Indiana School Boards Association, said the bill “offers clarity for school disciplinary actions.”

    The bill also has the support of Indiana Association of School Principals, according to Gerald Mohr, executive director of that organization.

    © 2019 TMNews.com, Bedford, IN.