Courtesy required under lawmaker's bill

Wednesday, December 22nd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A state lawmaker says he plans to file a bill to require Oklahoma public school students to use courtesy titles when addressing their teachers. Rep. Tim Pope, R-Mustang, said Tuesday he will file a bill modeled after a new law in Louisiana that requires students to address teachers as "ma'am," or "sir" or use the appropriate courtesy title of "Mr.," "Miss" or "Mrs." "I've checked with Louisiana school teachers and administrators, and they've had nothing but good things to say about it," Pope said. "I never remember calling any teacher `Dude' or `Bob' or `Mary,"' Pope said.

The proposed law "is basically saying, let's teach kids that they have to behave in a respectful manner toward their teachers." The law would extend to treatment of all school personnel while on school property. The Louisiana law applies to those in kindergarten though fifth grade. Higher grades will be phased in over the next few years, one grade per year. No punishment is included in the law. Each of Louisiana's school systems is required to decide how to discipline students refusing to respond politely. However, no student can be expelled or suspended.

Louisiana Assistant State Superintendent of Education Bill Miller said he knows of no case where a student has been disciplined for not being polite. He said the law has had the effect of prompting more public discussion and awareness of the importance of showing respect. Miller also noted that parents are increasingly concerned about the issues of school safety and discipline. A Louisiana task force on school safety and discipline recently recommended that each school be required to develop its own code of civility, Miller said.

Oklahoma Education Association President Carolyn Crowder said courtesy "is an issue that should be determined by local school boards and classroom teachers." Ms. Crowder questioned whether civility in the classroom is an issue that needs to be addressed by the Legislature.