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Governor gives teachers more legal protection

May 11, 2009

Hoping to curb frivolous lawsuits against teachers and schools, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law today legislation that he describes as being the strongest in the nation on protecting teachers from student discipline litigation.

With Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett nearby, Daniels held a ceremonial signing of House Enrolled Act 1462 this morning that put the new student discipline law into place starting July 1. It grants educators a qualified immunity status for a disciplinary action taken in "good faith," creates a process to ensure teachers are afforded state legal defense when sued, expands the authority of teachers to remove disruptive students from their classrooms, and establishes a national criminal background check for potential educators.

Teachers don't feel comfortable disciplining students because of possible lawsuits, Daniels and Zoeller said. Teachers would essentially be given the same qualified immunity status as state police or government officials, they said.

"Quality education cannot start until order prevails, and as of today Indiana has the strongest law protecting teachers against unruly students, unreasonable parents, and lawyers of all kinds," Daniels said. "This essentially eliminates the ability to sue a teacher or school acting in good faith, and ends the threat of legal harassment, except in the most extreme of circumstances."

Daniels described "good faith" as anything that doesn't involve a personal vendetta against a child. With this statute, the Attorney General's Office will also offer a hotline for teachers to use for assistance on legal issues. They will be referred to a deputy attorney general in the litigation division who will evaluate their case.

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