Weakley County School System teachers and administration have more freedoms, as well as limitations, to look forward to with the recent law changes within the state.
Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and even community members, will be influenced by these changes from the adoption of legislation by the 107th Tennessee General Assembly this year.
• Abstinence Promoted in the Classroom: Public Chapter 973 – SB3310 by Johnson/HB3621 by Gotto re-writes the family life curriculum statute, emphasizing abstinence and prohibiting the promotion of sex.
• Evolution and Global Warming Allowed to be Taught: Public Chapter 670 – SB0893 by Watson/HB0368 by Dunn prohibits the state board of education and any school from prohibiting any teacher in a public school setting from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, such as evolution and global warming.
• School Personnel May Participate in Religious Activities: Public Chapter 690 – SB3060 by Summerville/HB3266 by P. Johnson provides that school districts and school administration may not prohibit personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds.
The activities must be initiated by students at reasonable times before or after the instructional day so long as such activities are voluntary for all parties and do not conflict with the responsibilities or assignments of such personnel.
• Teacher Tenure Changes: Public Chapter 801 – SB2635 by Jackson/HB2237 by Sargent provides that a teacher shall not be entitled to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer in cases where there has been a disciplinary suspension of three days or less.
The law also clarifies that a teacher may be dismissed or suspended for incompetence, inefficiency, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct, and insubordination.
• Teacher Tenure Experience May Transfer: Public Chapter 614 – SB2578 by Southerland/HB2328 by Hawk permits a school district to accept a transferring teacher’s years of service from another school district in the state and to use such years to meet the requirements for tenure.
For that to occur, the teacher must meet the required performance effectiveness levels for tenure pursuant to the teacher evaluation model.
• EOC Teachers Must Be Specialized: Public Chapter 1020 – SB3341 by Ketron/HB2675 by Carr requires teachers teaching a course for which an end-of-course exam exists to be endorsed in the content area or pass the PRAXIS or equivalent exam relative to the course.
• Teacher Evaluations Are Confidential: Public Chapter 811 – SB1447 by Tracy/HB1908 by Montgomery provides all records containing the results of individual teacher evaluations administered pursuant to state board of education policies, guidelines, and criteria shall be closed to the public.
The law permits access to and utilization of such records by the school districts, department of education, state board of education, and charter school governing bodies as required to fulfill their lawful functions.
• County Commission Role With School Budget: Public Chapter 775 – SB3283 by Tracy/HB3770 by Ramsey clarifies that a county legislative body in a county participating in the County Financial Management System of 1981 shall not have line item authority over the school system budget.
The county commission is responsible for adopting a total amount of funds for the schools and may not alter line items or major categories.
Under the law, if a county commission adopts an amount that is less than the proposed budget, the school district may submit a revised budget within 10 days to comply.
• School Board Members May Participate Virtually: Public Chapter 823 – SB2723 by Finney/HB2883 by Fitzhugh allows school board members to participate in meetings electronically under certain conditions. A physical quorum must be present at the actual board meeting to enable electronic participation of a member.
The electronic participation is limited to two occurrences per board member unless the absences are due to military service.
• School Boards May Receive Grants Without County Commission Approval: Public Chapter 934 – SB3044 by McNally/HB2753 by Hensley provides that appropriations of federal or private grant funds shall be made upon resolution passed by the local board of education and shall comply with the requirements established by the granting entity.
There is an exception when the grants require matching funds, in-kind contributions of real property, or expenditures beyond the life of the grant.