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Kentucky lawmakers want to speed up investigations into educator misconduct

Capitol statehouse frankfort
J. Tyler Franklin
/
LPM
The House Education Committee advanced the bill Tuesday.

A group of lawmakers moved forward a bill that puts time limits on how long the Education Professional Standards Board can take to investigate complaints against educators.

The state board that investigates complaints against Kentucky educators would have to speed up its process under House Bill 300, which received preliminary approval from the state House Education Committee Tuesday.

HB 300 would give the Education Professional Standards Board a time limit for completing investigations into educator misconduct and taking action. The EPSB grants educators certifications and has the power to revoke them over illegal or unethical conduct.

Former Boone County Schools Superintendent Randy Poe told the House Education Committee that the EPSB’s investigations into allegations can take months or years before they’re found to be unsubstantiated.

“In the meantime teachers’ and administrators' decisions are put on hold, and the children suffer from not having that quality teacher in the classroom,” Poe told the committee Tuesday.

Poe is also a member of the Kentucky Board of Education, though he said he was not speaking on behalf of the KBE.

Alexandria Republican Rep. Mike Clines, who sponsored the bill, said one teacher described the process as “a plane that circles and never lands.”

The proposal comes weeks after 2024 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year Kumar Rashad shared his own concerns with EPSB’s process.

The Jefferson County Public Schools teacher was barred from his classroom by the district while it investigated his role in breaking up what Rashad believed was an altercation. After nearly four months of investigating, JCPS’ compliance and investigations office found the allegations against Rashad “unsubstantiated” and allowed him to return to the classroom in mid-January. His case is still pending, however, with the EPSB.

The proposed investigation timeline

Under HB 300, the EPSB would have a maximum of 120 days from the receipt of a complaint to take action, which could include “dismissal, training, admonishment, further investigation or initiation of a hearing.”

The EPSB would only be able to defer the action longer if the complaint was tied to ongoing criminal proceedings or if the educator agreed to a deferral.

The measure would give the EPSB up to 30 days to conduct an initial review and determine if there is “sufficient credible evidence that a violation may have occurred.”

Once the educator received notice from the EPSB, the educator would have another 30 days to respond.

The EPSB then would have to schedule a conference within the next 30 days. After the conference the board would have another 30 days to take action.

“If the board fails to take action on the complaint within the 30 days, then the complaint shall be considered dismissed,” the measure reads.

EPSB concerns

Attorneys for the EPSB said many cases cannot be completed on the proposed 120-day timeline and warn that the bill could result in serious allegations such as sexual misconduct to be dismissed without a full investigation.

EPSB attorney Cassie Trueblood told the House Education Committee that HB 300 “fails” to protect students from educator misconduct.

The “most concerning aspect” of the measure, Trueblood said, is the provision that would apply the new rules to EPSB retroactively. Trueblood told the committee that under the measure 129 cases currently before the EPSB would have to be immediately dismissed, including 31 cases alleging inappropriate relationships or sexual contact between educators and students.

It also presents issues going forward, according to Trueblood. With four full-time attorneys and two part-time staff, the lawyer said the EPSB does not have the resources to process complaints within the proposed new timeline.

“Without additional funding, the imposition of these timelines will lead to the dismissal of future matters due to an inability to comply with the statutory process,” she said.

She also said the nature of some cases means they take longer than others due to uncooperative witnesses, civil court proceedings and other factors.

Trueblood also noted that districts themselves may take several months to complete an investigation, and the EPSB often relies on district findings to make a final decision.

The measure passed the Republican-led committee overwhelmingly. House Education Committee Chair James Tipton, of Taylorsville, pledged to work with the EPSB to mitigate their concerns before bringing the measure to the House floor.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.