Evers signs student protection bill into law

Gov. Tony Evers endorsed legislation on Friday that includes a provision to enhance safeguards for students from strip searches and sexual misconduct.

Senate Bill 111, now designated as 2023 Wisconsin Act 198, was put forth following an incident in 2022 at Suring School District where an employee allegedly instructed six teenage girls to undress down to their undergarments while searching for vaping devices. Parents and law enforcement were not informed or present during the strip search.

The legislation amends the definitions of “strip search” and “private area” to encompass undergarments to safeguard students from strip searches carried out by any official, employee, or agent of a school or school district.

Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay), a coauthor of the bill, emphasized the importance of ensuring that “every student should expect dignity and basic privacy in schools.”

Steffen stated, “The Suring incident exposed a legal loophole that needed to be addressed. This measure aims to prevent students from undergoing such invasive searches in the future.”

Another legislation, Senate Bill 333, now labeled as 2023 Wisconsin Act 200, aims to heighten students’ protection by classifying sexual misconduct by any school staff member or volunteer as a Class I felony. It expands the violations where the state superintendent could revoke a license without a hearing and prohibits reinstatement of a license if the individual is convicted of specified crimes against a child or related offenses.

Additionally, Gov. Evers signed other education-related laws on Friday, including:

SB 447, now known as 2023 Wisconsin Act 193, enabling schools to obtain prescriptions for glucagon, a treatment for Type 1 diabetes, and authorizing school personnel to administer it. The law grants civil liability immunity to schools and staff. AB 223, now part of 2023 Wisconsin Act 194, offers civil immunity to schools and personnel administering an opioid antagonist in a school. AB 914, now categorized as 2023 Wisconsin Act 195, allows schools to create an asthma management plan for students and grants immunity from civil liability for administering medications.

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