It was a quiet day under the dome today with no floor action and almost no committee meetings.

Yesterday afternoon, there were hearings in both the House and Senate Education Committees. Both committees dealt with legislation intended to keep students safe from harm.

The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on SB 333, amendments to the Jason Flatt Act. The Jason Flatt Act was passed in 2016 and requires all school district employees to receive one hour of training per year in recognizing the signs of potential suicide.

SB 333 would amend the act so that school districts would have more flexibility in determining how much training, how often that training would be, and who would be required to have the training. Opponents of the amendments included family members who had experienced a suicide in their family and mental health providers who work with individuals in crisis. Senators Lynn Rogers (D-Wichita) and Bruce Givens (R-El Dorado) both spoke as proponents. United School Administrators also spoke as a proponent. KNEA spoke as a proponent with some concerns about the extent of the changes. While KNEA supports some flexibility in the selection of training programs, we asked that the legislation continue to require all school personnel receive such training. We did not support allowing a school district to choose not to provide the training to all employees who come into contact with students. Often a custodian, bus driver, or lunch server have positive relationships with students and might be an actual life-saver in a crisis.

KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti also suggested the committee remember that the state’s mental health system is in crisis due to a lack of funding and that this legislation ignores the many other places where students interact with adults such as youth sports leagues and community youth development programs.

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2578 which would amend the statutes on bullying policies to require school districts to post such policies on their websites with a prominent link on the homepage, distribute the policies to parents and guardians of students, and file a copy of the policy with the State Department of Education.

Proponents of the bill argued that it was important for parents and students to understand how the district would deal with bullying, what the consequences for bullying behavior would be, how the adults would work with students to understand and counteract bullying. By reading the plans, parents would know how incidents would be handled and might be better able to advocate for stronger plans.

Currently, bullying policies are required but whether or not they are readily accessible to patrons is all across the board. Some policies are not on websites at all, others are buried deep in those websites and hard to find. Still, some school districts have comprehensive policies that are easily accessible.

KNEA supports this legislation.