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State Journal: Minutiae; Paddle problem

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The Kentucky Court of Appeals is getting tired of interpreting the anti-nepotism provisions of the state's 1990 school-reform law. Take their latest case:

Billy Ray Newby was first elected to the Caldwell County school board in 1973. Fourteen years later, the board hired Lisa Morrow as a substitute teacher. Later in 1987, she was employed full time. By the end of the year, she had married Mr. Newby's son. In the years since, Mr. Newby has continued to win election to the board while his daughter-in-law has continued teaching. But in 1992, the state moved to oust Mr. Newby.

The 1990 reform law makes anyone with a relative working for the local school district ineligible as a board candidate. Mr. Newby, however, felt he should be grandfathered in because of his long service and because Ms. Newby was not his relative when she was hired.

The trial court agreed. The appeals court, however, had a different view, voting 2 to 1 to remove Mr. Newby from his seat.

Judge Tom Emberton argued that he should not be penalized. Judge John Gardner said the law does not make any distinction based on whether Ms. Newby was married after she was hired. Judge Rick Johnson sided with Judge Gardner, but in his own opinion urged the legislature to see to its own unruly progeny and clear up the law.

An Arkansas law intended to clarify the state's corporal-punishment policy may have the unintended consequence of discouraging paddlings.

The law, which passed with overwhelming support in last summer's special session of the legislature, was meant to protect teachers and administrators from civil suits.

Rep. Jerry Hunton, who sponsored the bill, said he intended to require districts to adopt policies in which a teacher could spank a child with an administrator present as a witness, or vice versa, in the hope of eliminating suits claiming that teachers ganged up on a student.

"Apparently, we didn't word it quite right," Mr. Hunton said.

An opinion from the state attorney general's office said that under the new law, teachers cannot serve as witnesses to paddlings, only administrators. In small schools where administrators are hard to come by, it could prove difficult for a principal to arrange a spanking.

Mr. Hunton said the legislature would try again in the upcoming session.

--Lonnie Harp & Laura Miller

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