Graphic reading: Teachers Advisory Council

Officials with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) gave an update on new legislation on student discipline during the Teachers Advisory Council meeting on Sept. 7.

House Bill (HB) 538, passed during the 2023 legislative session, creates new requirements to resolve behavior issues, including:

  • Requiring the expulsion of a student for at least 12 months if the student has made threats that pose “a danger to the well-being of students, faculty or staff of the district”; and
  • Requiring each local school board to adopt a policy outlining the disciplinary response for a student who has physically assaulted, battered or abused educational personnel or other students off school property and the incident is likely to substantially disrupt the educational process.

“Schools are not being asked in this bill to adjudicate every altercation that may happen after school hours within the community; only those that will disrupt the educational process,” said Matthew Courtney, a policy advisor in KDE’s Office of Continuous Improvement and Support.

Courtney explained that there are alternatives to expulsion, including involuntary enrollment in the district’s alternative education program. Local boards also may adopt policies that establish an appeals committee and procedures.

Courtney said the alternative education programs would be reviewed annually by the local school board to determine whether students need to continue in that program if it is utilized as an alternative to expulsion.

The law also creates a potential disciplinary route for students who are deemed “chronically disruptive,” or students who have been removed from the same classroom three times within a 30-day period. They may be suspended if they fit this category.

Courtney said the expulsion rule in HB 538 could conflict with other laws, but referencing Kentucky Office of the Attorney General Opinion 23-02 (OAG 23-02) will help districts make that determination. The opinion states the 12-month expulsion may be imposed as long as the punishment is not arbitrary compared with the nature of the offense.

“What this really tells us here is that context is key for this,” he said.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act continues to govern situations involving students with disabilities.

Carla Criswell, an English language arts teacher in Christian County, asked what the local school board could do if a student is sent to an alternative program and the disruptive behavior continues. Courtney said HB 538 did not change any policies governing alternative programs, and beyond the annual review of a student’s placement in an alternative program in lieu of expulsion, local school boards would need to craft a policy to address such a matter.

Teacher Recruitment

Organizers of the GoTeachKY initiative said KDE is looking for the next class of ambassadors, and updated council members on their efforts to bolster the development and recruitment of Kentucky teachers.

The mission of GoTeachKY is to ensure all students across the Commonwealth have equitable access to effective educators. GoTeachKY seeks to recruit the next generation of teachers and help remedy the critical teacher shortage, which affects every state in the U.S. 

Justin Edwards, a program consultant in KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness, said there are three goals for an ambassador:

  • Communicate with and inspire students in high school and college to consider teaching as a career;
  • Communicate with potential and current teachers to positively capture the rewards and opportunities associated with a career in teaching; and
  • Support and promote the central focus areas, programs and organizations of GoTeachKy.

“When you’re out in the community, be a light for all the good stuff that’s happening around teaching,” he said.

April Jackson, a special education teacher in Hardin County, asked if there are ways to reach college students with teacher recruitment efforts.

“I just think there’s a huge opportunity at the college level for students that get there and they have no idea what they want to do,” she said.

Edwards said there are opportunities for GoTeachKY ambassadors to get stipends through the program to speak at different locations, including college campuses.

Jamaal Stiles, chair of the Teachers Advisory Council and a biology teacher in Washington County, was a GoTeachKY ambassador and said one of most promising things about the program was seeing students at the national Educators Rising conference be excited about teaching and learning.

“If you’re on the fence about applying, I would very highly suggest it,” he said. “It helped me, as a professional, to see our students across the Commonwealth who are also passionate about teaching and entering the field.”

The council also discussed:

The next Teachers Advisory Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.