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When Charlotte native and veteran teacher Scott Yamanashi saw NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner’s recent news story (“Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher”), he felt compelled to speak out. It turns out that Mr. Yamanashi has extensive direct experience in the area. Not only has he spent several years as the de facto disciplinarian at multiple schools, he has also seen from his own family’s experience how a felony conviction acquired as a teen can seriously damage a person’s life.

Making felons of troubled teens is not the answer
By Scott Yamanashi

State senators in Raleigh are currently pushing a proposal (Senate Bill 343) that would make it a felony for a student to assault a teacher. As a 12-year veteran teacher and Charlotte native currently enrolled full-time as a graduate student in Educational Administration in order to become a principal, I certainly appreciate the intentions of the sponsors. Unfortunately, the proposal would ultimately cause many more problems than it would solve.

First, it should be acknowledged that violence is a genuine problem in our schools. Often, “tough love” is needed to address the decline in attentive parenting and two-parent homes and the lack of academic and behavioral integrity these trends help breed within our student populations.

I should also add that I have never been attacked and only threatened a couple of times in my career. But I am also six feet five inches tall, almost three hundred pounds, and have been a part-time bouncer for twenty-four years. Needless to say, students don’t even try it with me, and they know I will defend myself and my colleagues with any and all necessary WWE moves I have at my disposal to end the threat in the safest manner possible.

That said, through my years of experience as a “go to” school peacemaker it’s become clear to me that the best and safest campuses are those in which the school administration and teaching core work to effectively instill a school-wide set of effective and consistent discipline policies and procedures, as well as adequate counseling.

These kinds of policies, programs and structures (and the budgetary resources to make them possible) are what our schools desperately need from state leaders more than anything else in order to handle violent, misguided students. Turning more young people into convicted felons won’t help.

On this latter point I speak from direct experience. Read More

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House Bill 786, the “RECLAIM NC” Act, will be up for a vote soon on the NC House floor.  In spite of the restricted driving permit that could be offered to some immigrants, it is on balance a bill that will be harmful to the immigrant community in North Carolina, and will increase racial profiling even among US citizens. In the midst of so much going on at the General Assembly, this sweeping immigration legislation has not received the attention and scrutiny it deserves.

In community forums about the bill’s provisions around the state — Hendersonville, Raeford, Charlotte, Durham, Greenville, and Wilson so far — advocates have seen that there are a variety of opinions on the bill, but that once immigrant families understood the many negative provisions in the bill and the difficulty of obtaining a “restricted driving permit” under HB 786, they did not support the bill.

Beyond being costly, increasing incarceration of immigrants, and eroding civil liberties for all North Carolinians, there are six specific reasons I believe that legislators should vote AGAINST HB 786: Read More