CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A leader in the state Senate says student behavior in West Virginia schools is an issue that needs addressed in this year’s legislative session.

Senate Education Committee Chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, is drafting a bill that she plans to introduce during the session that will hopefully treat kids who need disciplined before they become violent.

Sen. Amy Grady (R-Mason)

Senator Grady, who’s also teaches 4th grade in Mason County, said what’s happening in some elementary schools with young kids acting out is unacceptable. She wants to find a balance between being compassionate with kids and what they’re going through, but also protecting teachers and the other students in the classroom.

“I’m really trying to focus on not just kicking kids out of school, but how can we help them. We can’t just put a band-aid on it,” she said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” from the state capitol building.

Kicking kids out of school is not the answer, according to Grady. Not only do they miss time or get behind in their school work, but they may not end up in a better environment outside of school that helps them in their behavioral struggles. Grady said adding behavioral supports is important and would be a good start for the state.

“If you kick a student out of the classroom for two weeks and they come back, you want to make sure when they’re back that they have the tools they need so they’re not leaving the classroom again,” Grady said.

Grady said actual violence among students has picked up and not just against other students but also towards teachers. She’s heard stories from other educators and superintendents of extreme events involving five and six year old’s.

“We’re talking about threatening teachers, throwing things at them, throwing things at other students, throwing things across the room, slamming things, hitting things,” she said. “That’s not typical of a 6-year-old.”

“In what other profession can you say that it’s okay for someone to be assaulted and not do anything about it?”

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee also supports an effort to fix what has become a problem of student discipline in West Virginia schools.

“We have to address the mental and emotional state of these kids and the discipline problems that are rising from that,” Lee said Wednesday night outside the house chamber following Gov. Jim Justice’s State of the State Address.

Grady works in a smaller school in Mason County where there are only a few students who have bad behavior. Depending on the school, a student would be removed from the classroom and meet with the principal and potentially a county psychologist.

She said teachers are expressing their frustrations because they aren’t properly trained to deal with students who are expressing more violent behaviors.

West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Fred Albert said the discipline issue in classrooms needs to be addressed during the session.

“We’re losing educators every year because of discipline issues in our schools,” Albert said Wednesday. “Hopefully we’re gonna see some bills passed that will take care of that issue.”

Also, students who are moved out of the classroom for their behavior, currently have two options for alternative learning. One is virtual learning while the other is homebound learning. Grady said those two options aren’t a part of her solution. She added that homebound learning isn’t always the best alternative form of learning. Sometimes, a student’s home life may translate to how they act in school.

“The majority of the problems we’re seeing are linked to what’s going on at home,” Grady said. “We have a lot of kids who are living with grandparents or in foster situations and so they are carrying a lot of emotional trauma from that.”

The Senator is taking inspiration for her bill from a program operated at schools in Raleigh County that directly deals with student behavior and has limited student discipline.

The “T-4” program is used in some schools where trained behavioral instructors assist a student who has been removed from the classroom to regulate their emotions and their behavior before they act out in a serious manner. Students are moved to a different classroom to spend time with those who are trained to be behavior consultants. Grady said the goal of the program is to intervene before a situation with a student gets too bad.

“There are usually two teachers and three aids who are trained more to deal with these behaviors,” Grady said. “They’ve seen a lot of success.”

Grady said the program “has a hefty price tag” which could be tough for some counties to implement, but from what she’s heard from school systems who utilize the program, and representatives who spoke about the program in a recent education committee meeting, it’s worth it.

“What we put into a kid is what we get out or don’t get out of them when they’re older,” said Grady.

As far as funding for the bill and getting more school systems to potentially model this program that attends to student behavior, Grady said she and fellow lawmakers have pondered using opioid settlement funds. At this point, using opioid settlement money is only an idea. Grady said she has been in contact with the state attorney general’s office about that possibility.

“Who’s more affected than our students and our kids and who would be better than to use that money for than them?” Grady asked.

Grady said her bill isn’t finished yet but she’s adding the finishing touches and will introduce it during the session in the coming weeks.