ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina lawmakers are considering a new bill that would enforce stricter penalties for assaults on school workers.
The legislation, HB534, is currently working its way through the legislature and could classify certain assaults as felonies for repeat offenders.
On Monday, the risk of violence in the classroom came into statewide focus after a viral video circulated of a substitute teacher and student fighting at Rocky Mount High School.
In the video, the student and substitute can be seen arguing about a phone. That soon escalates to them hitting each other repeatedly and eventually grappling on the floor.
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Neither Rocky Mount High School nor Nash County Public Schools responded to ABC11's request for comment on the video.
In a statement Tuesday, the North Carolina Association of Educators told ABC11 it hopes any new legislation on the topic would consider the root causes of the recent rise in classroom disturbances.
"NCAE believes all students and educators should be safe from violence at school and urge the state legislature to address the conditions that lead to unsafe environments," said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. "Classifying assault on a school employee or volunteer as a felony with a potential prison sentence of up to 59 months could bring serious unintended consequences, particularly if it is disproportionately applied to students of color."
Issues in North Carolina classrooms are on the rise across the board. According to recent data from the State Department of Public Instruction, there was a 23.5% spike in violence and crime in the state's high schools in 2021-22 compared to the year prior.
High numbers of employee vacancies in North Carolina schools have also remained a persistent problem.