PolitiFact: Bill would’ve given teachers protection in deadly cases


A reader asked us to look into an article headlined: “This new bill would allow Texas teachers to kill their students if they felt it was needed.”

Good thing Texas lawmakers are no longer in session, eh?

The article, posted on a website called the Greenville Gazette, said the Teacher’s Protection Act “would allow teachers to use deadly force on school property, a school bus, or at an event sponsored by a school either in self-defense or defense of students at the school.”

Use of force in the classroom has made headlines. On Oct. 28, 2015, most recently, a school resource officer in South Carolina was fired after a video surfaced of him throwing a female high school student on the ground.

So, was there a proposed act permitting Texas teachers to kill their students if necessary?

No one at the Gazette responded to us. But a Web search led us to a proposed Teacher’s Protection Act. State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, filed House Bill 868 on Jan. 22, but it didn’t advance into law or draw a hearing.

The bill says: “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 (he or she) reasonably believes” themselves to be “justified under” sections 9.31, 9.32, 9.33 and 9.43 of the Texas Penal Code. Those sections establish that a person can use force or deadly force against another in self-defense or in defense of property if the person “reasonably believes” it to be “immediately necessary.”

Under the legislation, a teacher would be shielded from criminal and civil charges “for injury or death that results from the educator’s use of force or deadly force.”

While the measure didn’t specify a teacher could kill a student, we asked Flynn if it left that option open. Flynn said that was not his intent.

“That’s a ridiculous statement,” he said. “It totally mischaracterizes the bill.”

Flynn said the proposal’s purpose was to protect any teacher from facing criminal or civil charges for defending himself or herself against a student assault. “You hear all the time,” Flynn said, “that teachers are getting broken noses, being slapped, being pushed around, being taken to the floor by overzealous students who know that they can do it without fear of reprisal.” He didn’t provide specific examples.

Asked about the legislation permitting a teacher to use “deadly force,” Flynn said he used the same language that otherwise broadly appears in existing law, perhaps referring to the penal code provisions permitting a person to use force or deadly force against another in self-defense or in defense of property if the person “reasonably believes” it to be “immediately necessary.”

Next, we asked lawyers to appraise the proposal: Would it allow Texas teachers to kill their students if they felt it was necessary?

All four said Flynn’s proposal would allow a teacher to kill a student, but only if the action was justified under the existing penal code conditions — a limit stressed by Shannon Edmonds of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and Sam Bassett, president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Edmonds and Bassett also said teachers may currently use deadly force in keeping with the penal code, though attorney Paul Tapp of the Association of Texas Professional Educators suggested Texas teachers cannot yet typically use deadly force. Tapp pointed us to section 9.62 of Texas Penal Code, which says teachers can use “force, but not deadly force” to “maintain discipline in a group.”

Our ruling:

The website declared: “This new bill would allow Texas teachers to kill their students if they felt it was needed.”

This statement is partially accurate in that a bill was introduced in 2015 to give teachers greater legal protection if deadly force were employed against a student. But saying that it would “allow Texas teachers to kill their students if they felt it was needed” is a stretch that suggests that the bill would allow teachers to just start firing away.

We rate this claim, which lacks this context, Half True.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Democrats denounce Abbott and Patrick for cowardice on border crisis
Democrats denounce Abbott and Patrick for cowardice on border crisis

The Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor Thursday excoriated Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans, as moral cowards and un-Texan for failing to condemn the Trump administration for the zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossings that led to the separation of children from their parents. “It has...
Community news: Free wellness workshops offered

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Wellness workshops offered Registration is open for two three-month wellness workshop series, hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, that will be from 10:15 a.m. to noon in Austin libraries throughout the year. The first series will cover the impact of sugar on health July 14, the nutritional value of labels Aug. 11 and the...
Amid lodging shortage, day-trippers keep Port Aransas afloat
Amid lodging shortage, day-trippers keep Port Aransas afloat

Hurricane Harvey battered Deven Bhakta’s Port Aransas hotel until it was uninhabitable. The Category 4 hurricane’s 130 mph winds blew out windows and stripped parts of the roof off the three-story Holiday Inn Express, while the resulting storm surge filled the hotel with nearly 2 feet of water. The 74-unit building, which Bhakta owns, has...
UPDATE: Austin City Council members visit tent encampment at Tornillo
UPDATE: Austin City Council members visit tent encampment at Tornillo

Mayors from across the United States and most of the Austin City Council were at the Tornillo border crossing near El Paso on Thursday to protest President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The group gathered on the road that leads into Mexico, a few hundred yards away from the facility where federal officials have...
Record number of Texans expected to hit the roads this Fourth of July holiday, AAA says
Record number of Texans expected to hit the roads this Fourth of July holiday, AAA says

More Texans will travel this Fourth of July holiday than ever before, according to new data released Thursday by AAA. The insurance company and member club said it expects 3.4 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday, an increase of 5.7 percent from last year.  Nationwide, 46.9 million travelers are expected to travel,...
More Stories