Misconduct allegations would follow teachers under bill moving through Kentucky legislature

Senate committee also approves easing education requirements for hiring some school workers

By: - March 9, 2023 4:43 pm

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testifies in committee earlier in this session. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

FRANKFORT — A Senate committee advanced two House education bills that would affect processes for hiring school district employees. 

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, presented House Bill 288 Thursday, which would make it more difficult for teachers found responsible of sexual misconduct to begin working in a different school district. The Senate Education Committee voted 11-0 in favor of the bill. 

The intention of Tipton’s bill is to protect Kentucky students who may face abuse in schools while balancing due process in investigations, he told the committee. 

“We have a responsibility to protect our students,” he said. “We have an obligation to educate the students of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and … a parent has an expectancy when they send their child to school, they’re going to be safe. They’re going to be protected.”

The bill would bar school districts from entering nondisclosure agreements with teachers regarding misconduct. Job applications would ask if an employee had been the subject of an investigation or an allegation made in the last year, and school districts must contact references at all previous school districts, under the bills provisions.

Tipton referenced a series from the Lexington Herald-Leader reporting that sexual misconduct was the most common reason Kentucky teachers had their licenses revoked or suspended between 2016 to 2021. In that time frame, teachers in 118 of 194 cases lost their license because of sexual misconduct. 

Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, raised concerns about negative effects on someone who was exonerated after a complaint was investigated and how that might hinder future employment. The bill requires the results of any investigation to remain in an employee’s file.  

Tipton said he saw a benefit in requiring all results so if any information about the accusation came up in the future, there would be a record of exoneration. 

Neal said he could see both sides and floated the idea of letting employees decide if such records should remain in their files if they had been cleared. Tipton said he would be willing to discuss that issue further. 

The bill passed the House easily earlier this month with a vote of 97-0. 

House Bill 32

The Senate Education Committee also forwarded a measure that would allow school districts to hire classified employees who lack a high school diplomas or an equivalent. Classified employees in a school district include secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other employees who are not certified as teachers or administrators.

House Bill 32, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Jackson, R-Bowling Green, would remove requirements of a high school diploma or equivalent to be hired as a classified employee. The vote was 12-0.

The House passed the bill 95-0 last month. 

It will go on the Senate’s consent agenda. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.