SALEM, Ore. — A key piece of legislation to help teachers was signed by Governor Kate Brown on Thursday.

Senate Bill 963 allows teachers to "physically assist" disruptive students to safety. It also clarifies a law passed in 2011 in response to an increased number of special needs students being retrained or put in isolation rooms.

Teachers said the law was interpreted to mean they can't touch students at all, so they were forced to do things like "herding," which means guiding a student to safety without touching them, even if they run away from the building.

RELATED: Classrooms in Crisis: Verbal, physical, sometimes violent outbursts plaguing Oregon classrooms

SB 963 will now allow teachers to physically assist students without fear of getting sued.

Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend), a chief sponsor of the bill, carried it on the House floor, where it passed 58-1.  

“I have heard from countless teachers, parents and students about the increasing frequency of these room clears and how troublesome they have become. I am proud to work with my colleagues across the aisle to bring forward a practical solution for our classrooms,” said Helt.

KGW has interviewed dozens of teachers and school administrators about an increase in verbal, physical and sometimes violent disruptions in Oregon and Southwest Washington classrooms. We've received emails from hundreds of additional teachers who tell similar stories. Many teachers say they don't have the proper training, support or resources to deal with this disruptive behavior. The teachers don't blame the kids, pointing out that many students have suffered trauma in their lives; however, they say the current law makes it difficult to handle these incidents effectively. In many cases they are forced to clear all other students out of a classroom until a disruptive student can calm down. We will continue to tell these stories and push for solutions from lawmakers and school officials.

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