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Rhee Wants Higher Standard For Teacher Conduct In Classroom

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D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says she wants a reform of teacher discipline policies.
Kavitha Cardoza
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says she wants a reform of teacher discipline policies.

By Kavitha Cardoza

D.C. School's Chancellor Michelle Rhee recently sparked outrage when she told a national magazine that as part of lay offs in October, she let go teachers who abused students and were often absent without explanation. While she was talking only about a few teachers, Rhee says she thinks discipline procedures for educators should be reformed.

Rhee says most teachers in D.C. Public Schools do great work but the progressive discipline policies for teachers who don't, need to be changed.

"You can have one offense and maybe you get suspended for three days and another offense and you get suspended for five days and another offense and you get suspended for ten days. For things, laying your hands on kids and that sort of thing, which most parents and people would think 'oh my gosh, if you do that, you shouldn't be in the classroom anymore,'" says Rhee.

Rhee says the bar for getting rid of bad teachers is too high.

"There's got to be a higher standard for the adults that we allow to be in the classroom with children and that cannot be just a criminal standard," she says.

Nathan Saunders who's running for president of the Washington teachers union says he's looking forward to a conversation about discipline procedures because he says teachers get a raw deal under the current system. He says rules on assault and battery are clear but those on corporal punishment are what he calls "very nebulous."

"A teacher can be charged with corporal punishment for doing anything from making a child lay his head on a desk, to breaking up a fight in a school. And certainly it's a problem for teachers and in education environment," says Saunders.

Parts of the discipline code can be changed through a union agreement or legislation.

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