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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Student privacy vs. teacher safety

Do teachers have a right to know when a student has been charged with a violence crime? “Most states allow law enforcement agencies and courts to notify school districts of potentially criminal juveniles, writes Rebecca Beitsch on Stateline.

Now a Wisconsin lawmaker wants to require law enforcement officials to notify schools within 24 hours of a student’s arrest for violence.

The proposal came in response to an attack at a Milwaukee high school in August, reports Beitsch. “The cellphone video is shocking: A high school student shoves a teacher, then hits him face-on and is still hurling punches, his peers giggling along, as the man tumbles backward onto the floor.”

Still, the idea is controversial.

“I don’t think teachers could have that information and not have it shape their response to a young person, especially a young person that hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet,” said Naomi Smoot, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Five percent of teachers reported being attacked by a student in the 2011-12 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In Wisconsin, 11 percent of teachers said they were attacked by a student.

Since 2013 Illinois “has allowed law enforcement to verbally share records with teachers, though they cannot become part of school records,” writes Beitsch.

Carolyn Gilbert was alone in her high school classroom after school in Elgin, Illinois, in 2008 when a student asked to wait for the bus in her room to avoid the chilly January weather. But he soon pulled out a knife and started stabbing. She lost an eye as a result.

Gilbert didn’t know he’d been arrested before. “I wouldn’t have been in the room alone with him,” Gilbert said. “[Teachers] don’t have to know all the particulars, just that he has violent tendencies or something in his past — just something to prepare us.”

Illinois changed its law as a result of the attack.

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