Teacher's Protection Act Gets Headlines, Will It Get Votes?

Filed on January 22, 2015, by Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van), the Teacher's Protection Act (House Bill No. 868 text) has created quite a stir.

Today, on the "Texas Law" Google News feed, no fewer than six of the approximately 20 headlines addressed the proposed legislation. One of the portions of the bill causing the stir provides:

An educator is justified in using force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator's person or in defense of students of the school that  employs the educator if under the circumstances as the educator reasonably believes them to be, the educator would be justified under Section 9.31 [self defense], 9.32 [deadly force in defense of person], or 9.33 [defense of third person], Penal Code, in using force or deadly force, as applicable, in defense of the educator or students.

Currently, regarding the teacher-student relationship, Texas Penal Code §9.62 provides for "[t]he use of force, but not deadly force..." if the teacher "is entrusted with the care, supervision, or administration of the person for a special purpose," and if the teacher "reasonably believes the force is necessary to further the special purpose or to maintain discipline in a group."

Another aspect of the headline-grabbing Teacher's Protection Act creating controversy is that the bill allows for the use of deadly force in defense of school property in addition to defense of self and others:

An educator is justified in using force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of property of the school that employs the educator if, under the circumstances as the educator reasonably believes them to be, the educator would be justified under Section 9.43, Penal Code, in using force or deadly force, as applicable, in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.

The Houston Chronicle report, citing a lobbyist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), states, "the ATPE’s legal team doesn’t believe Flynn’s legislation adds any additional protections for teachers that don’t already exist for every Texan claiming self-defense..."

As of this writing, the bill has yet to make it out of committee, so the controversy surrounding this bill might be premature. It is unclear whether Representative Flynn will be successful is getting the Teacher's Protection Act passed, but it is certainly clear that he was successful in nabbing headlines.

You can track H.B. 868 through the legislative process, if you are interested. You can also read the full pdf version of the bill. There are no shortage of news outlets reporting on the bill, and if you want to read more, here are just a few (the spin is apparent from the headlines):