Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd October 28, 2020

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   Legislation allows students to attend release time courses – Public Chapter 743 was passed this year amending current law to require a public school, upon request of the parent or the legal guardian, to excuse a student to attend a release timed course for religious moral instruction for up to one hour per day per week. The principal of the public school would determine the classes from which the student may be excused in order to participate in the released timed course, and the student would not be allowed to miss any course that would be subject to an end-of-course examination or other any other state examination. No public funds will be expended to implement or maintain this instructional schedule or to provide necessary transportation.  

   New law helps ensure license revocation for teachers convicted of certain crimes — The 111th General Assembly approved legislation clarifying that licensed teachers convicted of certain crimes against children will have their license revoked by the State Board of Education. The criminal offenses that apply, after the teacher has exhausted or waived due process rights, include communicating a threat concerning a school employee; arson; aggravated arson; burglary; child abuse; child neglect; child endangerment; aggravated child abuse; aggravated child neglect; aggravated child endangerment; providing handguns to juveniles; sexual offenses; and violent sexual offenses. In addition, Public Chapter 629 includes teachers or administrators whose name is placed on the state’s Vulnerable Persons Registry or the state’s Sex Offender Registry, or those identified by the Department of Children’s Services as having committed child abuse, severe child abuse, child sexual abuse, or child neglect. 

   Bill allowing State Board of Education subpoena power for educator licensure investigations passes — Legislation to allow the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Education to issue subpoenas for educator licensure investigations passed this year. Public Chapter 733 is part of the efforts to protect students from teacher sexual misconduct or similar prohibited acts. The State Board of Education is responsible for hearing teacher licensure matters involved in such cases. The legislation allows the subpoena to be issued for the appearance of persons or the production of items relevant to the investigation, including video footage.

   The General Assembly passed a series of bills in 2018 addressing teacher sexual misconduct after a comprehensive report from Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson revealed deficiencies in hiring practices for school personnel that could allow predators to slip through the cracks. The legislation works to keep sexual predators out of the classroom. 

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov.