OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate has approved legislation to help keep emergency certified teachers in the classroom and strengthen bullying prevention in Oklahoma schools. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, is the author of the two bills.
SB 1115 allows the State Board of Education to renew the emergency or provisional certificate of anyone who has been employed by a school district for at least two years. To be considered, the individual must have –
- not passed competency exams,
- submitted a portfolio of work including evidence of progress toward standard certification to the State Board of Education,
- his/her contract renewed by the employing district for the upcoming fiscal year, and
- evidence from the superintendent as to the district’s inability to hire a teacher with a standard certificate and reasoning for the renewal.
The bill clarifies that those employed under an emergency or provisional certificate are not to be considered career teachers and are not entitled to the protections of the Teacher Due Process Act of 1990. It also allows the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Commission for Educational Quality and Accountability, to grant an exception to the subject area exam requirement in a field that does not require an advanced degree if the candidate has an advanced degree in a subject that is substantially comparable to that found in the subject area exam. The measure requires the degree to be from an institution accredited by a national or regional accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
“Our state continues to struggle with a significant shortage of qualified teachers in the classrooms. By allowing the State Board of Education to extend emergency certifications past the current two-year window, we’ll be helping schools who have no other applicants,” Sharp said. “For some, it just isn’t feasible financially or timewise to become a fully certified teacher, so they just quit when their two years is up. A school’s only option at that point is to leave the positions open and increase class sizes. This bill will allow these dedicated individuals to continue serving in the classroom.”
The Senate also passed SB 1133, which aligns Oklahoma’s definition of bullying to the national standard definition developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new definition includes imbalances of power that exist between the perpetrator and intended victim(s). The measure allows for staff, parent and student reporting without retaliation. It requires new employees to receive district discipline and bullying policy training when hired. Staff, parents and students will be held immune from cause of action for damages when reporting bullying in good faith.
SB 1133 requires school discipline and bullying investigation policies to be updated annually. Once per semester, superintendents will report to their local boards in a public forum about the district’s bullying prevention activities and the number of bullying incidents. The bill also requires parent notification of students who are reported as bullying perpetrators or victims within 24 hours as well as immediate notification of a student who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions or who encourages another student to commit suicide.
“This bill addresses the many concerns of education professionals concerning the dangers of bullying in public schools by creating a culture and climate of transparency at the district, community and family levels,” Sharp said. “This is a serious issue, and I’m grateful for my Senate colleagues’ support of this bill to help schools continue working to stop bullying.”