KDE officials investigating misconduct after Hazard High School homecoming viral posts

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Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT/Herald-Leader) - State education officials are investigating a complaint about the homecoming activities at Hazard High School last week according to a report from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“The district cannot comment on the matter while it is under investigation at the state level,” Hazard Independent Superintendent Sondra Combs said of the incident that received national attention. Combs apologized for the incident at a schoolwide assembly last week and said that ‘fun trumped judgment.’

Officials will not say which educator is being investigated.

Original Story

Following the viral pictures that came out of a Hazard High School homecoming event last week, a lot of attention has been put on the teachers involved.

According to officials from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), people in Kentucky can file complaints with the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) if they believe a teacher has broken the code of conduct.

WYMT reached out to KDE for information about any potential investigations into Hazard High School or teachers with the school.

The Chief Communications Officer for KDE, Toni Konz Tatman, said an open records request could be submitted to get any information regarding complaints that have been filed against teachers or other educators.

After submitting an open records request, Chelsea F. Young, the Deputy General Counsel with KDE’s Office of Legal Services, gave the following response:

“KDE is in possession of records that it is not producing pursuant to exemptions set forth in KRS 61.878(1). Complaints of educator misconduct filed with the Education Professional Standards Board that have not yet resulted in an educator case are preliminary in nature and, therefore, exempt from disclosure pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(i) and (j). Kentucky Attorney General’s Opinion 17-ORD-189, supports KDE’s position that such records are exempt.”

This means that any complaints that have been filed about a specific person cannot be shared with the public until a course of action has been determined.

Tatman added that some cases can take a long time to reach a final decision. She also said that all cases, no matter how many complaints have been filed, are given the same amount of attention.

“The educator case process is confidential until final action has been taken by the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB),” said Young. “For more information on the EPSB’s process, please see Procedures Relating to Board Action on an Educator’s Certification.”

The next EPSB Board meeting will be on December 13, 2021. There is no agenda publicly available for this meeting yet.

You can submit formal complaints by going to the Kentucky Department of Education website and filling out the written complaint form.

WYMT has reached out to the Hazard Independent Superintendent for comment but has not gotten a response.

We will update this story as we learn more information.

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