Due Process and Bullying Bills Both Advance to Final Action

Mar 7, 2018 by

After a vigorous debate and two attempted amendments, the House advanced to final action on a voice vote, HB 2757 which would restore due process to teachers in Kansas.

Early in the debate, Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) offered an amendment to expand due process to all state and municipal employees.  He admitted he was opposed to teacher due process but said if it’s good for teachers it ought to be given to all public employees. It was clear to everyone present that his wish was to amend up the bill enough to pull supporters off and ultimately kill the bill.

Plenty of representatives pointed this out at the well and after a long debate, the amendment was rejected on a vote of 38 to 82.

Rep. Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) then offered an amendment to make this bill into his two-tiered system- this was the same amendment that was rejected by the Education Committee which he chairs. Under the Aurand amendment, teachers who had earned due process prior to the repeal in 2014 and were continuously employed in the same school district would have those earned rights restored. New teachers would have a decidedly different system. Under their system, while they could appeal a non-renewal to a hearing officer, the hearing officer could only consider the district’s evidence and the teacher could not provide evidence to the contrary. It’s like going to traffic court but being prohibited from making your case. Under Aurand’s system, real due process would end for all teachers as the veterans retired.

The Aurand amendment was rejected on a strong voice vote.

After the end of debate, the bill was advanced to a final action vote on a vote of 72-48 (a division vote, not a recorded vote).

Take time tonight to email your Representative. Ask him or her to support both HB 2757 (due process) and HB 2758 (bullying policies). 

Click here to use KNEA’s Contact Your Legislator portal. 

The saddest part of the day was listening to all of the teacher-bashing from conservatives. Rep. Kristey Williams, after letting everyone know she had been a teacher and was related to many others, gave a long lecture on teachers who sexually harass students and seemed to imply that due process could not be restored because teachers might use that as the opportunity for them to join the “me too” movement and allege sexual harassment by employers.

As was reiterated time and again during the debate, due process is simply that, a process by which teachers can redress a decision they believe was unfair and do so before an impartial officer.  Due process has never and will never usurp criminal law in cases of sexual misconduct or any other criminal offense.  Unfortunately, it appears Rep. Williams and others just don’t seem to comprehend that reality.

Some of the objection the conservatives used to hide their disdain for due process was instead framed as “local control.” Yes, local control, the catchphrase for why we can’t treat teachers like professionals. The conservatives are all for local control- until they’re against it. And when are they against it?

  • When they decide to stop cities and counties from making local property tax decisions.
  • When they are passing mandates prohibiting municipalities from using prevailing wages – a benefit for workers – in granting contracts.
  • When they are telling school districts what employee training they must offer and how much of it is acceptable.
  • When they are mandating NRA gun training in our schools.
  • When they are prohibiting colleges and universities from controlling access to their buildings by armed individuals.

According to these conservatives, school districts need local control over due process so their professional teaching staff remains at-will employees who can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason at all.

So after spending a considerable amount of time trying to say that local control was sacrosanct, they turned their attention to a bill mandating additional procedures for all school districts regarding how they deal with bullying – HB 2578.

To be clear, KNEA supports HB 2578. KNEA supports mandates on our schools if those mandates will help our students. For that reason, we have supported this and other bullying bills. We supported Erin’s Law that requires training in recognizing signs of child sexual abuse. We supported the Jason Flatt Act that requires training in recognizing signs of possible suicidal tendencies in children. Who traditionally opposes them? KASB – under the argument of “local control” just as was clarified to be their position on HB 2757.

So for those of us in the gallery, it was like watching a conservative split screen. “We must allow local  control on due process!” “We can’t dare allow local control on bullying policies!”

The only hiccup in the passing of HB 2758 was an amendment offered by Rep. Sean Tarwater (R-Stilwell) which would have added three more mandates (notification of parents when their child was bullied, mandatory counseling for the target of bullying, and mandatory counseling for the bully). Additionally, it would have added a laundry list of consequences bullies would face. The list, Tarwater explained, was just a list of suggestions, not mandates.

The full House chose to keep the bill clean and rejected the Tarwater amendment on a voice vote.

After the due process bill had passed and while closing on the bullying bill, Rep. Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) told the body about all the teachers bullying students and being protected by the union. It was a truly offensive morning.

Here’s what people like Willie Dove seem to ignore. When I came to KNEA way back in 1998, I was immediately dispatched to a number of Kansas school districts where I provided resources and training for whole school staffs in programs for teachers to use in combating bullying and helping kids be allies of the targets and strong against the bullies.

KNEA – the UNION – was providing bullying prevention training to schools districts long before the legislature considered this to be an issue. KNEA – the UNION – was at the forefront of protecting our children.

Now that Rep. Dove and his friends know this (providing they read this blog), they understand that KNEA is the organization supporting legislative mandates on schools that protect our children and KNEA is the one organization that was providing bullying training long before the legislature even recognized it as a problem, I’m sure they’ll be issuing an apology.

But frankly, if I wait for that apology, they’ll likely have to deliver it to my grave.