When most students in Hardin County return to school this week, the national motto of “In God We Trust” will be visible on school walls, likely in the cafeteria or entrance.
The motto’s placement is one of new several mandates from the state that begin this school year. The law was proposed by local legislator Brandon Reed, a Hodgenville Republican.
“We are one nation under God, and that reality should be reflected in public life, including in the buildings where our children are being educated,” said Reed, a minister, in a news release after he prefiled the measure last August.
Signs are different depending on the school. For example at Heartland Elementary School, the motto is in black lettering on a white background above the school office’s entrance. At Elizabethtown High School, the signs feature the American and Kentucky flag and can be found in the cafeteria and school office.
The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the measure, as “it could call unwanted attention to students who believe in a non-Christian faith or who identify as unaffiliated with any religion.”
That law is not the only new one school districts will have to abide by this school year. All Kentucky school districts now must implement a work ethics program that emphasizes adaptability, diligence, initiative, knowledge, reliability, being drug-free and cooperation.
Hardin County Schools has had a program implemented since the 2013-14 school year, but Elizabethtown Independent and LaRue County Schools are beginning their programs this year.
Another new law in effect this year is how school board vacancies are handled if a board member resigns. School boards now are tasked with appointing a new member to the school board as opposed to the state education commissioner. The school board must solicit applications and appoint a new member within 60 days of the resignation. The new law has had a local impact. The Hardin County Board of Education accepted the resignation of Andrea Palmer, who resigned because her relocation to Nevada, and now is advertising the position on the school district’s website. Following the appointment, the seat will be up for election in November.
Other laws include school districts are required to abide by this year include:
• The School Safety and Resiliency Act where each school district is required to have a school safety coordinator, who is required to take training and is responsible for training school principals on school security risk assessment. One or more school resource officers also are to be assigned to each school “as funds and qualified personnel become available.”
Future safety requirements also are mandated.
• Revamped academic standards feature new standards for numerous content areas such as math, reading and writing, and social studies, have been implemented this year. Among them include mandatory cursive instruction.
• High school graduation requirements for freshmen beginning this year have changed with four math credits needed.