Nix: Protecting our children

Published 6:16 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

This week marked the halfway point in our legislative session and many bills were brought to the full House for a vote.

With the rest of our country, we learned the horrific news of another school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the family and friends of the victims, and we must make every effort to prevent these horrendous acts.

Before this terrible event occurred, the House drafted HB 657, which would penalize a person attempting to persuade a dealer to transfer a firearm to someone other than the buyer with imprisonment of one to five years. The penalty would also apply to anyone who provides a firearm to a person who is a convicted felon. The bill passed overwhelmingly and is now headed to the Senate. I believe that there is much to be done to protect our schools while still allowing people the right to bear arms, and it is an issue that we must work on earnestly to eliminate this threat to all who engage in educating our children.

Also prior to the events in Florida, I sponsored HB 763 which amends the current Georgia Code relating to school attendance. HB 763 adds school climate to that panel’s oversight responsibilities and establishes protocols designed to monitor internal elements in schools, including overall morale of students and staff. The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House this week and is heading to the Senate.

I also sponsored House Bill 740, which would prohibit schools from expelling or suspending students in public preschool through third grade for five or more days per school year without first providing the student with a multi-tiered system of supports. This multi-tiered system of supports includes Response to Intervention, a preexisting program that identifies and addresses students’ academic and behavioral needs to help them succeed in the classroom. HB 740 would not prohibit a school from suspending a student who is in possession of a weapon, drugs or any other dangerous item. Rather than continuously suspending and expelling students from the classroom and limiting students’ access to integral curriculum, HB 740 would address students’ underlying needs to help improve their educational outcomes.

Both HB 740 and HB 763 address critical educational issues in our communities. I believe that if we address these issues as a community, we will see a decrease in student suspensions, expulsions and dropouts and have a more positive total school environment. Our teachers and students must be supported by a community that cares, our students must be held accountable for their attendance, and we must work together so that our children view education as the key to success.