Kentucky House passes school discipline measure

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House passed a school discipline bill Friday that’s aimed at defusing classroom disruptions by allowing teachers to take immediate action to remove unruly students.

Republican Rep. Timmy Truett said the disciplinary steps allowed under the measure aren’t intended to increase student suspensions or expulsions. But action is needed because teachers, staff and students deserve a learning environment free from disruptive behavior, he said.

“This bill will make public education better,” said Truett, the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposal won House passage on an 89-6 vote, sending the measure to the Senate. It comes as lawmakers consider ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention to help overcome the Bluegrass State’s shortage of classroom educators.

Under the bill, a teacher could immediately remove a student from class for being disruptive.

The student wouldn’t return to that class for the rest of that day without agreement from the teacher and a school administrator. A student removed from the same classroom three times within 30 days would be considered “chronically disruptive” and could be suspended from school.

“The goal of this is to empower teachers to control what happens inside their classrooms,” Truett said during a committee hearing on the bill earlier this week.

House Bill 538 also would allow principals to permanently remove a student from a classroom for the remainder of the school year if their presence would “chronically disrupt the education process for other students.”

Such students could be assigned to another classroom or an alternative program.

Another provision would result in a student’s expulsion for at least 12 months if school district officials determine, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the student made threats posing a danger to students, faculty or staff.

That would allow school officials to take action “before something horrible happens,” Truett said.

The bill includes language allowing a superintendent to place a student in an alternative program, instead of being expelled, if the superintendent determines that the student “substantially” disrupts the education process or causes a threat to students or staff.

The alternative program could be provided virtually. Such actions couldn’t occur until the student’s parents or guardian have an opportunity for a hearing before district officials.

“We don’t want to expel kids,” Truett said during the recent committee hearing. “We don’t want kids outside the school setting. But this bill will open up that opportunity of using virtual as an option as opposed to a student being chronically disruptive inside the classroom.”

During the debate Friday in the House, Republican Rep. Steve Riley said “the status quo cannot continue in our schools.” He said it’s “hard to fathom” how much things have changed for teachers in dealing with disciplinary issues at school.

“Every child is important. But we cannot continue to have a system where we let a child continuously disrupt a classroom and keep the other 29 from learning,” Riley said.