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Kentucky bill dealing with school discipline looks to expel 'violent' students

House Bill 538 passed through the House Education Committee, Tuesday, but not without opposition.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Lawmakers in Kentucky's House of Representatives are considering a bill that would create state guidelines for how teachers and local school boards are to deal with discipline inside classrooms.

Among other measures laid out in the proposal, House Bill 538 would require local boards of education to expel a student for a period of at least 12 months for "[making] threats that pose a danger to the well-being of students, faculty, or staff of the district." 

School administrators must also ensure any expelled student is given an "appropriate alternative program or setting" to continue learning—that may include a virtual learning program or attending an alternative school.

HB 538 sponsor Rep. Timmy Truett (D-McKee) sent WHAS11 the following statement Wednesday:

"We continue to hear from Kentucky teachers that student behavior is a major problem. HB 538 seeks to provide an alternative tool to help address this issue and help teachers and the 95% of students who are there to learn."

House Bill 538 passed through the House Education Committee, Tuesday, but not without opposition.

"It's not about school safety. Shamefully enough, it seems to be more of a ploy to lock up more kids," Metro Councilman Kumar Rashad, who's also a math teacher at Breckenridge High School, said. "We're creating a situation in which adults are given random discretion on removing students who they feel are threatening to them."

Rashad believes the measures will unintentionally target certain, vulnerable student groups who are best supported inside school environments.

"The impact is devastating to our community because [we'll] have Black and brown students, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students who will be out on the street," he said. "They miss out on activities that could help them choose a better pathway."

Rashad said punitive actions only compound problems for students with troubling behavioral tendencies. He believes a more holistic approach is more effective.

"We really don't have a system set up for restorative justice. All we know is punitive actions," he said. "From my work here at this school, I've seen how positive encouragement really changes students."

HB 538 outlines, in certain situations, intervention services may be provided to help students with chronic behavioral issues, but it is at the discretion of school administrators.

It's unclear how exactly the bill would impact JCPS students. According to the district, it currently does not expel students."

The bill now heads to the House for a full vote.

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