School safety bill vetoed by the governor - WFSB 3 Connecticut

School safety bill vetoed by the governor

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(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The governor vetoed a bill late Thursday that would have created a new way to process school suspensions.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said the bill would have unfairly targeted minority students.

Malloy, a Democrat, said it would have disproportionately affected and negatively impacted students of color and students with disabilities.

He cited how a similar bill played out that way in Texas.

However, the Connecticut Education Association released a response on Thursday in opposition. It said Malloy vetoed the state's best chance to end a school-to-prison pipeline.

"Public Act 18-89, which passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, would have helped ensure a safe classroom environment for all students and educators," the CEA said in its statement. "It would have required that students who cause physical injury to others receive appropriate counseling and services rather than being ignored or disciplined in a discriminatory way, which occurs too often at present."

The CEA urged lawmakers to override the veto.

“It is ironic that while Gov. Malloy admirably promotes counseling and mentoring for prisoners in Connecticut jails, he is denying proactive support in our schools when students cause physical injury to others," said Sheila Cohen, CEA president. "The governor is not connecting the dots. If we want fewer young people in our criminal justice system, we need to be proactive in our schools and hold administrators accountable for ensuring students receive the support they need."

Malloy's office, however, called the CEA response "absurd."

"For the CEA to suddenly claim their bill is aimed at reducing discrimination is disingenuous and frankly insulting," said Kelly Donnelly, Malloy's director of communications. "The fact is, their own testimony in support of the legislation in March made absolutely no reference to racial disparity and no reference to students with disabilities whatsoever, yet today they wrap themselves in a banner of racial justice in an effort to get their bill passed into law. It’s just wrong.”

Donnelly said that while the bill may not have had discriminatory intent, it would have resulted in it.

“To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a labor union representing the interests of teachers or teacher safety, which are important conversations Connecticut has and will continue to have," she said. "We hope that the governor’s veto is upheld, and that a more constructive and informed conversation about classroom safety can be had in the years ahead.”

Sen. Len Fasano, a Republican representing North Haven and Senate president pro tempore, called the governor's veto disturbing.

"The Senate unanimously approved this bill, and I am calling on lawmakers to again stand together to reject this veto," Fasano said. "In approving this bill we made it clear that physical violence and threats have no place in our classrooms and teachers need to be able to take appropriate steps to keep their classrooms safe."

Some educators feel schools are ill-equipped to handle what's going on and students aren't getting the help they need. 

"Yeah, absolutely, I've had kids who would charge at you," said Kate Diaz, a Manchester teacher. 

Diaz is a teacher at Manchester High School. In 18 years, she's seen a number of disturbed and abusive students and says those with problems are getting younger and younger. 

Malloy says he vetoed the bill saying it would hurt minorities. 

State Senator Doug McCrory, along with members of the black and Puerto Rican caucus agree with Malloy. 

"Children of color have been treated much more harshly in our school system, beginning in pre-K, so I am not lost on that reality. But, also the fact this particular bill has some mandates that a lot of school districts can't afford gift right now," said McCrory. 

Supporters say the problem has been ignored for too long. 

"When a student exits our room because there's been an issue, there really isn't a protocol for re-entry that says 'let's talk about what happened, let's find a route, and let's try to work that out,'" said Diaz. 

The bill did get bi-partisan support and lawmakers are talking about going back to the capitol to override Malloy's veto. 

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