Changes to state’s tribunal system advance

Legislation to reform the state’s tribunal system passed through the House Education Committee on Monday with a 13-9 vote.

Senate Bill 8, the tribunal reform bill, passed through the Senate the first week of session in January and has been awaiting a hearing in the House committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve West, makes changes to the current tribunal structure by ensuring one of the members of the council is an attorney trained in education law.

West told the House committee the bill will help professionalize Kentucky’s tribunal system to help school districts deal with ineffective or insubordinate employees while protecting teachers’ due process. Superintendents are often reluctant to fire or suspend an employee due to the cost, complexity of the process, and likelihood their decision will be overturned by a tribunal.

Senate Bill 8 also limits tribunal decisions to upholding or overturning the decision of the superintendent.

In discussing the bill, West said there are very few cases in Kentucky that end up in front of a tribunal and added that shows the cases that do end up there are often extremely egregious and need to be handled in a timely and professional manner.

Woodford County Superintendent Scott Hawkins told lawmakers it is important to have the best process possible and he believes Senate Bill 8 ensures that. Hawkins noted the support of the Kentucky Associations of School Superintendents and the Kentucky School Board Association.

As a superintendent of almost 11 years, Hawkins told legislators if a case gets to the point of being in front of a tribunal, many other steps have been taken leading up to that point and it is in the best interest of the school district to move forward which makes it even more important to have a strong process in place.

Senate Bill 8 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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