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Bias has always been a four-letter word, and it is viewed as one in most cases.

Progress in the fight for justice against those wrongly biased against it for whatever reason is a good thing. It's a noble pursuit that we should all support and aid.

But when bias is prematurely used as an excuse to sway emotion, then it's detrimental to the discussion as well as the fight against actual bias.

That was my thought over the weekend when reading the attempts by our state leaders to find ways to help classroom teachers maintain discipline.

The Tennessee Discipline Act is aimed at creating a uniform referral process allowing teachers to request to have students who are habitual discipline problems removed. The measures in the act require a six-step checklist for a teacher to petition to the principal to have a student removed. Among them is speaking with the disruptive student's parent or guardian and a school counselor.

Of course, in these racially charged times, not even finding ways to better help our public school teachers help our kids can go without claims of discrimination. Several of the opponents of the measure, which cleared a second House education panel vote last week, point to research that states Black and special-needs students have been disproportionately disciplined.

"I think this is a step in the wrong direction," said Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat and the only Black member of the Senate Education Committee, which is preparing to take up the bill. "Instead of being punitive, we should focus on root problems of misbehavior."

Wow. If meeting with parents and counselors to try to solve an unruly student's actions is not a "focus on the root problems of misbehavior," then I'm not sure what would qualify.

Heck, if you want to argue that a six-step process is too arduous, I will listen.

If you want to claim it's a whole other round of work on the desks of our already overworked educators, then I can see that point, too.

If you want to go as far as debating whether universal approaches to individual problems are always going to have specific issues, well, that's logical too.

But according to the big-picture numbers from the state's association of educators, as well as almost any conversation you'll ever have with a public school teacher, we need to find ways to support them.

And not just for the teachers' sake, but also for the damage one undisciplined student can cause to the learning pursuits of the rest of the class.

Sure the Pareto Principle in business states roughly 80% of the responsibility and work are done by 20% of the staff. I believe a similar corollary, and it could be even closer to 90-10 — exists when it comes to an educators' time in terms of discipline.

Imagine if we found ways to help teachers and administrators deal with those issues and what could be accomplished with that extra time, focus, energy and classroom calm.

That would be good for all students, which should be something we all have a bias for.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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