In the past decade, more than 500 Florida high school students have died in the classroom.
Of those, roughly 60% of the fatalities involved teachers, according to a 2015 study.
In Florida, nearly all teachers are licensed.
Florida’s state licensing system, however, does not require a background check.
That leaves teachers vulnerable to lawsuits.
That could change under new legislation that would require school districts to verify students’ records.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mark Foster, D-Winter Haven, and sponsored by Foster’s Republican counterpart, Rep. David Simmons, DFL-Tallahassee, is in the works.
According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, the legislation would require schools to have “a school safety coordinator or safety officer” to perform the background check on students.
The report said Foster and Simmons were “particularly concerned” about how the bill would affect teachers.
“The bill would also allow schools to require teachers to undergo a background investigation before they could work in a classroom, if that was required under the law,” the report said.
Florida is one of the few states that requires a background-check check on teachers.
In addition to Foster and Rep. Simmons, the bill is backed by the Florida Association of Educators.
“This bill is necessary to protect Florida’s children and teachers, who are critical to maintaining our public schools,” said Laura Fink, president of the Florida State Association of Teachers, in a statement to the Center.
“We urge all Floridians to contact their state representatives and urge them to support our colleagues in Congress who are fighting to protect our teachers.”
But it could also be a potential political liability for Foster, who recently became embroiled in a controversy for suggesting that a child’s death is “a bad thing.”
The Associated Press reported Foster told a Florida radio station, “I would like to see kids killed.
I think that’s a very bad thing to do.”
The bill also includes language to address the problem of teachers who “have not received appropriate training and experience in teaching.”
Foster said he has not heard of anyone in his district that is being disciplined for their work.
The AP’s investigation found that Florida is a “lack of teacher training” state, with only 12% of schools in the state having a “school safety coordinator” or “safety officer” certified by the state.
The law could also make it more difficult for teachers to remain employed.
Fink said it is “essential” for teachers in Florida to have the “basic skills they need to safely teach children.”