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Student Discipline Legislation

Renee Shaw and guests discuss student discipline legislation. Guests: Carrie Ballinger, Superintendent of Rockcastle County Schools; Matthew Turner, Superintendent of Boone County Schools; Eric Kennedy, director of advocacy of the Kentucky School Boards Association; State Rep. Timmy Truett (R-McKee); State Rep. Lisa Willner (D-Louisville); and State Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris).
Season 30 Episode 5 Length 56:33 Premiere: 03/13/23

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Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis of major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw.

For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions in real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form. Viewers with questions and comments may send an email to kytonight@ket.org or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 800-494-7605.

After the broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Lawmakers and Educators Discuss Expanded Options for Disciplining Disruptive Students

Contentious debates over education-related legislation regarding transgender students and potential book bans have garnered significant attention during this year’s General Assembly session, but lawmakers also have sent a bill to the governor’s desk that will give school administrators additional options for dealing with disruptive students.

House Bill 538, which passed the last day before the veto period, requires schools to expel students for at least 12 months who physically assault or threaten other students, faculty or staff. They may also be expelled for bringing a weapon to school or for possessing drugs for the purpose of sale or distribution at school. Any such expulsions would be ordered by the local school board.

Rep. Timmy Truett (R-McKee) says his measure is crucial to a public school system that he contends is on “life support” because of increasing incidents of disruptive misconduct and even violent behavior among students.

“We have to do something to fix public education,” says Truett, who is an elementary school principal in Jackson County. “We have to fix something to where people are not wanting to take their kids out of our public schools and send them to private schools or send them to charter schools.”

Just because a student has been expelled doesn’t mean they won’t continue to learn. HB 538 also requires school districts to continue to educate those youth through an in-person or virtual alternative program that includes individualized instruction, counseling, and other supports to help that child get back on track. If warranted, placement in that alternative program can continue after the formal expulsion period ends.

“What I like about this bill... is we have options other than expulsion,” says Rockcastle County Schools Superintendent Carrie Ballinger. “Now, it’s either they’re in the classroom or they’re expelled, and there’s no middle ground, and that is not helpful for any of the parties.”

The legislation also says that students removed from the same classroom three times within the same 30-day period will be deemed “chronically disruptive” and may be suspended from school under existing district policy. (The original legislation said teachers could have a disruptive or threatening student immediately removed from the classroom. But the Senate rejected that provision and instead requires principals to create a policy for removing a student.)

Due process policies remain in place that require schools to provide the student with notice of the reason for their punishment and an explanation of the evidence against him or her. The student will have an opportunity to present his or her own version of the facts in the case. Parents or legal guardians also must be given written notice of any disciplinary action against their child.

Truett says the measure won’t be “a magic pill that fixes everything, but I believe it will help. ... We want to protect our teachers, we want to protect our students, and this is a start in the right direction.”

Why Misconduct Is Escalating

Ballinger and other school administrators say they have seen a stark increase in student misconduct since the COVID-19 pandemic. They say interruptions to traditional instruction along with students being cut off from the stability and security of the normal school routine have exacerbated bad behaviors and mental health problems among at-risk youth.

“School is absolutely the safest place they can be,” says Rep. Lisa Willner (D-Louisville), who is a clinical psychologist and former Jefferson County School Board member. “That doesn’t mean they’re prepared to behave well necessarily because these are kids who are struggling... and we know that removing kids from systems that are designed to support them can really increase the likelihood that they’re going to get into more trouble.”

Eric Kennedy, director of advocacy of the Kentucky School Boards Association, says his group has heard reports of more extreme student behavior for several years now. Not only does that create concerns about safety for students and staff, but he says it’s causing many teachers to consider leaving the profession

“We do not want to have a situation where parents do not feel that the schools are safe,” says Kennedy, “or that employees feel that they are not safe.”

As the nature of the misconduct has escalated, superintendents have asked lawmakers and state education officials for more options for dealing with those situations.

“If it becomes a more serious issue, we may have to have some more serious consequences,” says Superintendent Matthew Turner of the Boone County Schools.

Turner and his board faced a recent incident that illustrates the challenges for school administrators regarding student misconduct. A Boone County middle school student was expelled for a year for making a “kill list” of other youth. When the one-year term of that expulsion expired, that student was allowed to return to the classroom. Parents concerned over the safety of their children launched a petition drive to have that decision reversed. Turner says that by law public schools have an obligation to educate all students.

“There are guidelines we can follow where a student might be expelled from school for a particularly heinous or violent offenses, but there’s also the expectation that a student will come back to school at some point in time,” says Turner. “That’s where, in my own situation, I think that superintendents need more flexibility in how they handle situations like that and how a student may transition back into... their home school or another school setting.”

‘A Band-Aid on a Heart Attack’

Not everyone is happy with the new disciplinary options. Metro Louisville Council member Kumar Rashad is a math teacher at Breckinridge Metropolitan, an alternative high school in Louisville. He says HB 538 is only focused on punishing student misconduct, rather than helping prevent it.

“When kids don’t know math, we teach them math. When they don’t know how to read, we teach them how to read,” says Rashad. “But when they don’t know how to behave, we punish them.”

Rashad argues that stiffer discipline alone won’t lower the rates of infraction, and he’s concerned the new punishments will be unfairly applied to students of color. Instead of more discipline, he says lawmakers should fund more mental health supports for students. They should also craft policies that promote cultural competency among teachers and administrators and implement restorative justice practices that offer alternatives to traditional disciplinary measures, he says.

“To me this whole bill is like putting a Band-Aid on a heart attack,” says Rashad. “It doesn’t address the problem at all.”

Willner also faults her fellow lawmakers for not addressing deeper systemic issues in the state’s public school system such as low teacher pay, insufficient funding, and inadequate school facilities. She also points to Kentucky’s high rates of poverty, child abuse and neglect, and incarceration of women.

“We have to understand some of the deeper issues there that when kids misbehave, they are communicating something to us,” says Willner. “The seeds that we have sown through neglect, we’re seeing now in some of these extreme student behaviors.”

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris), who sponsored a companion student discipline bill in the Senate says more than half of state spending goes to education and that the General Assembly provided an additional $500 million in funding to public education in last year’s budget alone. He says both his legislation as well as Truett’s measure are a response to pleas they’ve heard from teachers and administrators across the commonwealth to help them deal with the most disruptive of children.

“We’ve gone away from strict discipline,” says West. “That’s probably caused some problems and maybe this is the pendulum going back.”

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S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

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Safer Kentucky Act

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Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

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Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

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Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

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SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

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Horse Racing Safety

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A Discussion of Gun Laws

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Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

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2023 Primary Election Preview

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Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

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Republican Candidates for Governor

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Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

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Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

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Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

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Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

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Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

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Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

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Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

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Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

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Early Childhood Education - S30 E42

Renee Shaw and guests discuss early childhood education. Scheduled guests: State Senator Danny Carroll (R-Benton), chair of the Senate Families and Children Committee and sponsor of the Horizons Act, SB 203, that addresses the child-care industry needs in Kentucky; State Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville), member of the Senate Families and Children Committee; Sarah Vanover, Ed.D., author of America's Child-Care Crisis: Rethinking an Essential Business, and policy and research director for Kentucky Youth Advocates; Kate Shanks, vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Brigitte Blom, president & CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Andrew McNeill, president of Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics & Education (KYFREE). A 2024 KET production.

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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at Kentucky Colleges & Universities - S30 E38

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