NASHVILLE, Tenn. — School bus drivers would be authorized to hold students accountable for disorderly conduct, under a bill passed by the state House on Monday.
Notably, the legislation would let school bus drivers, among other school personnel, use “reasonable force when necessary under the circumstances to correct or restrain a student or prevent bodily harm or death to another person.”
Rep. Mike McDonald introduced the bill, reportedly after a school bus driver was arrested for allegedly assaulting a student but was then cleared of the charges.
Currently, Tennessee students can be suspended from school or from the bus for, among other reasons, assaulting a principal or teacher with “vulgar, obscene or threatening language.” The new bill would expand the law to include such an assault on a school bus driver or other school staff member.
The legislation would require each school district in the state to address conduct on school buses in its student conduct and discipline code. It would also require each code to state that a teacher, principal, school employee or school bus driver may use reasonable force when necessary.
On the issue of liability, the bill says that “it is a defense against a civil action for damages under this section that a teacher, principal, school employee or school bus driver in the exercise of the person's lawful authority used reasonable force … that was necessary to restrain the student or to prevent bodily harm or death to another person.”
The Tennessee House passed the legislation by a vote of 95 to 1. It is under consideration in the Senate.
If passed, the act is to take effect on July 1.