Candidates make issue of student discipline
By Charles Wolfe (AP), The Louisville Courier-Journal

May 8, 2003

FRANKFORT, Ky. - When the candidates for governor promise to throw the rascals out, they are sometimes talking about schoolchildren.

Dealing with "disruptive students," up to and including removing them from the classroom, is high on the list of education plans being floated before voters by at least three candidates - Democrats Jody Richards and Ben Chandler and Republican Steve Nunn.

Who said it first has become an issue.

Richards, a state representative from Bowling Green who is House speaker and a former chairman of its education committee, released an education plan April 3 that dealt with student discipline, among other things.

It said teachers "must be given more control over their classrooms" and have the "power to remove disruptive students who interfere with other students' learning."

Nunn, a statere presentative from Glasgow, followed with an education plan based in part on mandatory codes of conduct for everyone involved - parents as well as students and teachers.

Chandler this week issued a position paper on education and placed "restoring discipline in schools" at the top. He says he would propose legislation to give teachers authority to remove disruptive students from the classroom and require them to perform "community service" after school.

Jon Akers, director of the state Center for School Safety in Richmond, said current law gives principals and school boards most of the responsibility for dealing with problem students.

He also said disruptive behavior has been increasing as an issue in recent years, due in part to "a deterioration of trust by the parents" in how schools deal with student behavior.

"Parents are challenging teachers daily," Akers said. School officials want more control within their buildings - to "take back the hallways," as he put it.

"That doesn't mean taking a paddle out and spanking the children," he said. It means alternative schools or classrooms, Akers said. "If we ever go close this achievement gap, we go have to do something about this behavior gap, too."

In a related development, Richards, whose campaign said Chandler's education plank was a "plagiarism" of Richards' plan, challenged Chandler and Democrat Bruce Lunsford to a 30-minute televised debate May 16. The Lunsford campaign said it had accepted.

Chandler's campaign manager, Mark Riddle, said he was "favorably disposed toward the idea" but needed details.

Riddle noted that all the Democratic candidates are scheduled to appear in a forum Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television.

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