Teacher misconduct bill on the move

January 24, 2024 | 12:11 am

Updated January 23, 2024 | 10:35 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

A bill requiring school districts to fully investigate teacher misconduct advanced from the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Committee chair Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, is the primary sponsor of House Bill 275. He sponsored similar legislation in 2023.

Tipton said the legislation is inspired by incidents across the state where teachers engaged in abusive misconduct with a student. He said in many cases, the school was not able to complete an investigation once the teacher resigned, and that teacher was then able to get a new job in a new district and repeat the behavior.

“This is a sad reality,” Tipton said. “And the intent of House Bill 275 is to try to prevent this from happening.”

HB 275 would require teacher applicants to disclose any allegation, investigation, or disciplinary action within the past 12 months related to abusive conduct while employed by a school district. It would also require schools to do an in-depth reference check on the applicant.

School districts would also be required to complete an abusive misconduct investigation – even if that teacher resigns – before the investigation is complete. Under HB 275, abusive conduct is defined as misconduct involving a minor or a student, including sexual misconduct and conduct subject to mandatory reporting under current state law.

The legislation would also require the Kentucky Department of Education to provide training to teachers by 2025 on what is appropriate and inappropriate conduct with students and how to spot warning signs of grooming and sexual abuse.

One provision of HB 275 would prohibit nondisclosure agreements related to misconduct involving a minor or a student. Rep. Steven Doan, R-Erlanger, and Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, asked Tipton if that provision would impact the privacy of the student.

Tipton said no, and he believes the existing Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) would still apply.

“It is certainly not the intent to allow private information of a minor child to become public,” he added.

The House Education Committee approved HB 275 unanimously.

In explaining his “yes” vote, Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, said teachers who abuse children should be punished, but there are many great teachers as well.

“I do want the public to understand that people that are involved in this in schools need to be severely punished,” Riley said. “It is morally wrong as anything can be to abuse young people. But I also want them to realize that the vast majority of teachers are good people who do good things every day.”

HB 275 will now go before the full House for consideration.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

January 24, 2024 | 12:11 am

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