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Georgia Senate passes bill removing student discipline from school ratings
State capitol

ATLANTA – Legislation to no longer count student discipline as a factor in a five-star rating system for schools and school districts cleared the Georgia Senate Wednesday.

The bill passed 39-12 and now moves to the state House of Representatives.

The state decided to include student discipline in the school climate rating system several years ago in an effort to improve poor behavior that was distracting from the learning process, Sen. Jeff Mullis, the bill’s chief sponsor, told his Senate colleagues Wednesday.

But it didn’t work, said Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

“Teachers are a little tired of this,” he said. “Discipline is important in order for other students to learn anything.”

The bill’s backers argued that removing discipline from the rating system would encourage teachers to actually punish misbehaving students. Many schools were failing to mete out discipline for fear a record of it would hurt their rating.  

Rather than include discipline in the climate rating – which grades schools and school systems based on health, safety and attendance – Mullis’ bill would require keeping separate data on discipline.

Senators amended the bill on the floor Wednesday to require school districts to post the data on their websites to give parents considering whether to move into a neighborhood easy access to the information.

“We hope and believe discipline will happen because it’s no longer part of the grading of the school system,” Mullis said. “But it will be visible to the parents.”

The bill enjoyed bipartisan backing in the Senate. Democratic cosponsors included Sens. Ed Harbison of Columbus, Freddie Sims of Dawson and Lester Jackson of Savannah.