ATLANTA - The Georgia House agreed Friday to require a code of conduct at schools and to grant more immunity to teachers sued for disciplining students.
The bill, which passed 169-0, also urges schools to create special programs for unruly students as an alternative to suspending or expelling them.
Students who are expelled "are not helped by going home and watching television or playing Nintendo," said House Education Chairman DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, the sponsor of the bill.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a watered-down version of the code-of-conduct bill. A House-Senate conference committee likely will meet to try to negotiate a compromise between the two bills before the session ends.
In a move that Sen. Ralph David Abernathy, D-Atlanta, said gutted his bill, the Senate amended the measure by making it optional for schools to adopt a conduct code.
Sen. Clay Land, R-Columbus, argued that the state has no business forcing schools to adopt a code.
"Whether doing it to protect students, whether doing it to protect teachers, what you're doing is mandating how local school systems should determine their code of conduct," Land said.
Porter's House bill not only mandates that schools adopt a code of conduct, but withholds state funds from those that fail to do so.
The measure also grants more immunity to teachers who get sued for disciplining students by requiring the student to pay the teacher's attorneys fees and court costs if the lawsuit is deemed frivolous.
Porter said lawmakers could "go home and tell teachers we're trying to help you manage that classroom."
School Superintendent Linda Schrenko has pushed for the conduct code, citing a survey of teachers that shows classroom discipline is their top concern.