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Kentucky House Committee approves student rights bill

Bulldog Report

FRANKFORT— The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for those accused of a crime or misconduct.

House Bill 145 would make sure students facing disciplinary action at a public postsecondary education institution have those rights.

The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 145 today, but not without discussion.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, one of the primary sponsors of HB 145, testified that the bill came to be after hearing from students at colleges and universities across the state express concern about the disciplinary policies at multiple institutions. Some students reported inconsistent rulings, lack of proper notice of hearings, lack of ability to see evidence against them and more.

Banta said HB 145 would guarantee that the accused and the victims receive fair treatment.

“There’s no consistency in standards, punishments or sanctions,” Banta said about the current system. “Plainly put, our colleges have policies that automatically put the future of our students on the line in these hearings.”

Rep. Banta

According to Banta’s testimony, thousands of students at public colleges and universities across the Commonwealth are subjected to disciplinary hearings every year and that statistics and information about these hearings are not properly reported. HB 145 would require universities to publish a report annually on the number of student hearings and demographics to make sure discrimination is not taking place, she added.

“I want to make clear that HB 145 isn’t meant to shield students from accountability,” Banta said. “145 is here to ensure that our publicly funded universities provide rights and give fair hearings for thousands of students that are held accountable through their disciplinary processes.”

Under HB 145, students would have the right to be timely notified of a hearing, access to evidence against them, ability to cross examine through counsel and the ability to appeal a ruling.

Banta said she and other lawmakers worked with schools, students, the Kentucky Student Rights Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union and others on the bill.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, expressed concern for sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors.

“The single biggest problem we deal with on university campuses is that people don’t report (sexual assault) because they just can’t deal with being re-traumatized,” Minter said. “… We want to get this right. We don’t want to cause any harm.”

Banta said those concerns were taken into consideration while drafting the bill, but some compromises were not made due to the desire to make sure those accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

HB 145 will now go before the full House for consideration.

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