New effort to curb violence in Lehigh Valley schools

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The Northampton County District Attorney is pushing for a new bill of rights for educators. (WPVI)

The Northampton County District Attorney is pushing for a new bill of rights for educators.

D.A. John Moganelli (D) says the way the laws are structured right now, especially federal laws, they leave educators in tough schools in a position of weakness, because those laws favor the students. He says that's a great thing for the 99 percent of kids who play by the rules, but it leaves teachers vulnerable to the one percent who don't.

"Our teachers in our schools are under assault," Morganelli said as he talked about recent reports pointing to an apparent rise and physical altercations involving public school students in Northhampton County - but more notably the neighboring Lehigh County.

In fact, Lehigh County officials dealt with nearly 3,000 school violence cases in the school year ending last June, with approximately 10 percent of those incidents ending with an arrest.

Morganelli says that puts educators in an unfair and often dangerous position.

He explains, "Educators today must not only be good teachers, they have to social workers, police officers, counselors, clergy, psychiatrists, and the list goes on and on."

So, his proposal is a new bill of rights specifically designed to protect teachers, administrators, and principles in Pennsylvania not only from unruly students, but also from potential lawsuits.

The most important elements to Morganelli's proposal would be spelling out an educator's right to protect themselves, simpler expulsion proceedings for problem students, and narrowing the definition of a special needs student under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Morganelli says, "Many of these students should not be classified as special needs. They're just problem, disruptive behavior kids, and not special needs in terms of intellectual functioning or any functioning that we normally would associate with being so designated."

The DA says he is sending his plan to Congressman Charlie Dent and Senators Toomey and Casey for their consideration.

We should also mention that Morganelli is seeking his party's nomination in the race for Pennsylvania Attorney General.
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