Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on limiting the use of force on students:
A student who is locked in a closet or duct-taped to a chair is not having his or her educational needs met. That's obvious and should be reason enough for schools to find better methods for managing children's behavior.
Youngsters also have died as a result of physical restraint imposed by school personnel.
Thankfully, none of the deaths have been in Kentucky, though there is compelling evidence that Kentucky children are being put at risk by routine use of restraint and seclusion in some public schools.
More than 80 allegations of students in Kentucky being subjected to abusive restraint and seclusion have been reported over the past five years, involving children as young as 5.
A federal survey found that 70 percent of the students who are subjected to these methods are disabled. Many are being disciplined by teachers and administrators, including special education teachers, who have inadequate training.
In Kentucky, the state school board has decided to limit the use of restraint and seclusion, effective next year. The new regulation also requires that parents be informed when it becomes necessary to use physical force against a student.
Educators would still be free to use force when a child's behavior is endangering the child or others. Apart from that, restraint and seclusion would no longer be allowed in Kentucky public schools.
This will be no big deal for schools that already employ best discipline practices and have adequately trained personnel. Educators could still employ time-outs and in-school suspensions.
Schools that are not employing best practices should change their discipline techniques and their mind-sets, which is the point of the new regulation.
The training requirements are not onerous or unduly expensive since school districts could train a single employee to train others.
Districts also would be required to develop policies on the use of restraint and seclusion and to regularly review their use of these methods.
This self-examination will motivate schools and educators to adopt better strategies for meeting the needs of all students, which is exactly what the public schools should be doing in a state that can't afford to waste any human capital. ...
The Paducah (Ky.) Sun on state constables:
The recent arrest of a Graves County constable, charged with four counts of wanton endangerment, is another reminder of the inherent problems with the office of constable in Kentucky.
Many consider the position obsolete and think it should be abolished. But that is not likely anytime soon, since it would require a constitutional amendment. Established in the 1850 Constitution of Kentucky, the office was designed to provide some law and order at a time when much of the commonwealth was still a frontier. Today, with hundreds of police departments and sheriff's offices across the state, the office of constable is no longer essential for public safety.
But constables maintain the authority to enforce both the criminal code and the traffic code in any part of the county in which they reside. And constables can, and often are, elected with no law enforcement background.
The Kentucky Constable Association does provide training and education for constables, but constables don't have to attend. Barely a third of the state's 454 constables attend monthly training sessions, and less than half have any training at all. Entrusting that much authority to people without training and experience can place the public and the constables themselves at risk.
The association's Statement of Common Purpose calls for constables to uphold the law and keep the peace "with integrity, common sense and sound judgment" and to "apply only that force which is necessary."
That's where the problems arise. Without training, defining those terms is subjective. A constable with a short fuse and no training is more likely to cross the line, applying more force than necessary or making reckless, dangerous decisions. On occasion, constables run afoul of the law. That's allegedly what happened when Constable Howard Burnett in Graves County made a traffic stop recently.
To the degree allowed under the Constitution, constables should be required to attend formal police training. And the state should restrict their law enforcement authority. Constables should not, for instance, make traffic stops. ...
The office of constable may be here to stay, but reasonable changes should be made in the requirements and duties. Constables should have limited law enforcement authority, and the job should demand some police training.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on health care reform:
... Hearts of stone surely must be lodged in the chests of Kentuckians who continue to assail the Affordable Care Act — including top elected officials who have made abolishing health care reform a priority even though that would deny many of their constituents desperately needed care.
Among the stonehearted are Kentucky's two U.S. senators, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who continue to denounce the program that could benefit more than a half-million Kentuckians.
Those who doubt the benefits of health care reform in Kentucky should read the letter from a Louisville physician who is appalled by the plight of patients with no way to pay for their care. Of particular interest is the contrast with Massachusetts, where the writer practiced medicine before he moved to Kentucky.
The contrast, of course, is that nearly all residents of that state enjoy health care coverage because when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he pushed through a health care reform law that served as a model for the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010.
As a result, Massachusetts has the lowest rate in the nation of citizens without health insurance at a time when the rolls of uninsured have swelled nationally to include nearly 50 million Americans — 16 percent of the country, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. In Massachusetts, only 5 percent of its people lack health care coverage — a stunning testimony to the power and benefits of its health care mandate.
Yet Romney, now in thrall to the GOP platform, denounces the federal law pushed through Congress by his opponent, President Barack Obama, a law that already has begun to benefit many in Kentucky.
In Kentucky, about 660,000 people, or nearly 16 percent of its population, have no health care coverage. Many suffer from costly conditions that plague this state in disproportionate amounts: cancer, diabetes, asthma and heart disease.
They lack means to pay for dental care, in a state with some of the worst oral health in the nation and where even young children live with untreated dental decay, a source of pain, misery and potentially life-threatening infection. ...
McConnell has adopted the ludicrous tea party claim of his junior colleague, Sen. Paul, that health care reform is a "federal government takeover."
Sen. Paul, a physician who should know better, continues to rail against health care reform, a position that helped him get elected in 2010 with a wave of tea party support but does little to establish his credibility as a doctor and a lawmaker elected to represent all Kentuckians. ...