Call to Order and Roll Call
Themeeting of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) was held on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Mike Wilson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Lynne Williams, Kentucky Department of Education.
Office of Education Accountability Safe Schools Study Update
Cassie Blausey, Research Analyst, Office of Education Accountability (OEA) discussed the statutory framework which governs school safety in Kentucky. She explained that school safety is a complex web of statutory requirements and interagency interactions that cover everything from building safety and emergency management to discipline and reporting requirements.
Ms. Blausey provided an historical overview of school safety law from the 1980s to today, noting that changes in law over time have primarily followed in the wake of horrific tragedies and as a result of society’s increased understanding of bullying. Key school safety legislation includes House Bill 330, the “school safety bill”; House Bill 91, the “bullying bill”; and House Bill 354, relating to emergency management. Ms. Blausey also highlighted the establishment of the Kentucky Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force. Ms. Blausey stated that there have also been observable changes over time in school safety community involvement. Societal views of school safety have evolved to focus on social climate as well as building safety.
Ms. Blausey said that the four key areas addressed in the scope of school safety law include: overall school safety, discipline, reporting statutes, and emergency management. She explained that statutes enacted in the 1998 school safety bill, and since are guided by three main requirements that every student access to a safe, secure, and orderly school that is conducive to learning; that every school establish plans, policies, and procedures that address at-risk students and disruptive behavior; and that state and local resources are needed to support research, programming and evaluation to successfully address safety and discipline in the schools.
Ms. Blausey stated that KRS 158.442 established the creation of the Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS) which serves as the central point for data analysis, research, and dissemination of information. KCSS works in collaboration with Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and others to provide safe school assessments and technical assistance on bullying, classroom management, internet safety and suicide prevention.
Ms. Blausey said that KRS 158.444 delegates certain responsibilities to KDE, namely the creation of school safety and discipline regulations. It also requires KDE establish and maintain a statewide data collection system that reports school safety information regarding school violence and discipline. This statute also mandates that KDE collaborate with KCSS in carrying out its mission.
Ms. Blausey explained that the series of statutes governing discipline (KRS 158.148; KRS 158.150; KRS 158.153; 160.345(i)(7)), covers guidelines for discipline, suspension and expulsion, and the protection and regulation of student disciplinary records. KRS 158.154, KRS 158.155 (4), and KRS 158.156 are the three main statutes that focus on reporting of criminal activity, specifying who has the duty to report, what incidents or offences are reported, and to whom to report and when.
Ms. Blausey explained that emergency management statutes are among the newest. She said that KRS 158.162, which went into effect in 2013, is the most recent school safety legislation. This statute lays out requirements for an emergency response plan. KRS 158.163 requires a procedure system that includes a building disaster plan before during and after the occurrence of an earthquake or tornado. KRS 158.164 requires the adoption of lockdown procedures, training for students and staff, and mandatory practice of those procedures.
Ms. Blausey discussed the specific responsibilities within the emergency management framework, and the specific responsibilities for the principal, superintendent, local board, school based decision making council, first responders, and the Department of Housing.
Sabrina Olds, Research Analyst, Office of Education Accountability, presented OEA’s preliminary analysis of data reported since 2012 on board violations of bullying, harassment, verbal abuse, threatening staff, and threatening another student. She explained that there are currently no definitions in statute or regulations that define the violations. However, KDE provides definitions for schools to use.
Ms. Olds stated that the increase in reported board violations, which will be further investigated in the final report, could possibly be attributed to either an increase in reporting requirements or an increase in incidents. She also noted that the data reported is based on reported incidents. If a student had multiple board violations in one year, the student is counted for each violation.
Ms. Olds reported that in 2012, there were 6,782 bullying, harassment, and threat violations reported in the state. This number more than doubled the following year. By 2014, the number had tripled, then plateaued in 2015, only increasing by 908 incidents.
Ms. Olds presented further analysis of the violations reported by violation type. She stated that in 2012, harassment accounted for almost half the total violations at 49 percent. In 2013, all categories more than doubled with the exception of threatening staff. In 2014, a new board violation code was added for threatening another student for which a little over 1,600 incidents were reported. She said that harassment increased the most, adding about 2,500 more incidents and was 45 percent of the total incidents that year. The biggest shift in the incident types occurred in 2015 with threatening another student almost doubling from the prior year, reaching 19 percent of the total violations. Threatening staff was the only other incident that had an increase with 220. Bullying decreased the most by 831 incidents from 2014, followed by harassment being down 694 incidents.
Ms. Olds shared analysis of violations with regard to grade level, gender, race of offender, and the location of the offense. In 2015, the middle school age student violations accounted for 49 percent of the total violations, with a little under 10,000 incidents. Threatening staff at the middle school level was two times more likely to happen than at the elementary or high school levels. Ms. Olds said that in 2015, violations by males, who make up 51.3 percent of the population, have 75 percent of the violations. In 2015, white students who make up 81 percent of the population, had 59 percent of total violations compared with black students, who make up 11 percent of the population, had 32 percent of total violations. In 2015, 74 percent of incidents occurred within the classroom.
Ms. Olds provided data on resolution measures for violations in 2015. Ms. Olds explained that the state mandates schools use the following codes to report resolutions to violations: out of school suspension, in school removal, expelled with services, expelled without service, corporal punishment, restraint, and seclusion. Resolutions that fall outside of these mandated codes are reported as blank. The blank records indicate that measures such as verbal warning, parent conference, counseling, detention, or Saturday school were taken. In 2015, 35 percent of violations were coded as blank. Ms. Olds noted that close scrutiny of the data revealed that approximately 1,000 of the resolution measures coded as blank should have been coded as “in school removal”.
Lastly, Ms. Olds provided data showing the total number of bullying incidents reported and the percentage of those reported that were committed by students with no other offenses. In 2015, there were 3,843 incidents of bullying reported, of which 76 percent were committed by students with no prior offences.
Ms. Olds stated that in order to gain a better understanding of how districts are coding violations, OEA staff will make school site visits to review and discuss staff practices for coding board violations. Insight gained will be presented in the safe schools study final report.
In response to Senator Mike Wilson’s question regarding total enrollment, Ms. Kimmel stated that approximately 600,000 students are enrolled in Kentucky’s public schools.
In response to Senator Mike Wilson’s question regarding the 14,233 increase in number of incidents from 2012 to 2015, Ms. Olds stated that the increase may be attributed to the lack of prior reporting, especially by schools, that according to news reports, are experiencing high rates of incidents. Senator Wilson stated that the increase in reporting after 2012 could be a result of increased awareness and diligence in reporting as a result of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 and passage of HB 354, the “safe schools bill,” during the following legislative session.
In response to Representative Derrick Graham’s question regarding coding of violation resolutions, Ms. Olds explained that if the resolution taken does not fit into one of the state mandated codes, the field is left blank and the resolution is described in the comments field. Representative Graham suggested that more specific categories be created so that offense resolutions can be monitored.
Representative John Carney stated that he is in his first year of serving as district safety coordinator. He said that based on his experience, creating a code for counseling would cover a large portion of the resolutions. In response to Representative Carney’s question about suspensions, Ms. Olds stated that the decrease in suspensions is due to districts being increasingly careful to keep the students in school.
In response to Representative John Carney’s question about discipline records for transferring students, Ms. Olds clarified that KDE is the appropriate agency to speak with regarding the issue of timely transfer of discipline records. Ms. Kimmel added that OEA can look at this issue throughout the remainder of the study.
In response to Representative John Carney’s comment regarding the difficulty schools have in working with the court system to address dangerous situations in a timely manner, Ms. Blausey said that Senate Bill 200, relating to juvenile justice reform will have implications for school safety that OEA will likely look at and report on after the completion of the safe schools study.
In response to Representative James Kay’s suggestion about cyber bullying, Ms. Blausey stated that OEA can examine cyber bullying as part of the study.
Representative Linda Belcher stated that it can often take months for students needing special education services to get placement resulting in the student experiencing behavior problems which cause safety issues for the student and others in the school. She suggests implementing a process for emergency placements.
In response to Representative Linda Belcher’s question about threats to teachers, Ms. Olds said that OEA plans to survey teachers. This will include questions that yield information regarding the seriousness of threats to teachers and the implications of threats on teacher discipline. She will also conduct deeper analysis of the comment fields from data collected thus far.
Approval of September 15, 2015, Meeting Minutes
Upon motion from Representative Mary Lou Marzian and a second by Representative Linda Belcher, the minutes were approved by voice vote.
Office of Education and Accountability 2014 Annual Report
Ms. Karen Timmel, Acting Director of OEA and Mr. Gerald Hoppmann, Research Division Manager of OEA presented the 2014 OEA annual report sharing the status and results of the annual research agenda and a summary of completed investigative activity.
Ms. Timmel presented a summary of OEA’s 2014 investigative data. She stated that OEA received 514 written complaints in 2014, resulting in 66 new cases being opened, which is less than 13 percent of all the complaints received. Of the 514 written complaints 437 were filed on-line; 283 of those complaints were submitted anonymously. Of those 283, only 26 cases were opened: 19 investigative cases and 7 SBDM cases. Ms. Timmel said that no violation of school law was found in 19 of 63 cases completed by OEA in 2014. In the other 44 cases OEA found 57 violations of school law.
Ms. Timmel stated that OEA recommends the General Assembly consider additional statutory guidance in the area of penalties within KRS Chapter 160. Providing specific detail as to what agency or court shall make the determination of guilt, what mental state is required for guilt, and who shall enforce and collect the fine would to allow for proper enforcement of the statute.
Mr. Gerald Hoppmann, Research Division Manager, OEA, gave a brief summary of OEA’s 2014 assigned research studies, including recommendations that were presented to and approved by EAARS. All of the studies have been published and can be found on the LRC publications website. The four studies completed include an Atlas of K-12 Education Data School Year 2013; Kentucky District Data Profiles: School Year 2013; Education Revenue, Expenditures, and Staffing Over 10 Years; and A Look Inside Kentucky’s College And Career Readiness Data.
In response to Representative Linda Belcher’s question about punishments, Ms. Timmel explained that OEA cannot impose fines for violations, but as mandated, does take resolution measures, such as requiring training and proof of compliance. She added that OEA refers egregious cases to the Education Professional Standards Board and/or KDE.
In response to Representative John Carney’s question regarding fines, Ms. Timmel specified that fines for violations range from $100 to $1,000.
In response to Representative John Carney’s question about school board members, Ms. Timmel stated that OEA is aware of the difficulty in getting individuals to run for the school board in less populated counties. She stated that through its investigations OEA has encountered many board members with a specific agenda who end up violating required processes rather than patiently following them to accomplish their desired goals. She said that individuals who run need to understand and follow the processes. She stated that OEA has made recommendations in the past regarding board member qualifications.
Approval of Office of Education and Accountability 2014 Annual Report
Upon motion from Representative James Kay and a second by Representative Linda Belcher, the report was approved by voice vote.
Office of Education and Accountability 2016 Research Agenda
Chairman Mike Wilson announced that suggestions for the 2016 OEA Research Agenda have been collected and distributed to members. The final study agenda will be approved during the next EAARS meeting, scheduled for November 17, 2015, 10:00 AM.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:25 AM.