Kentucky legislature passes historic campus due process bill; heads to governor’s desk for signature

March 31, 2022

Kentucky House Bill 290, having already passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, yesterday passed the Senate, once again with bipartisan support, and is on its way to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk for his signature. FIRE urges the governor to sign this critical piece of legislation.

HB 290, called the Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Kim Banta. The bill provides crucial procedural protections to students accused of violations of a public college or university’s student code of conduct that could result in a suspension or expulsion — protections that are sorely needed.

For example, FIRE’s analysis of policies at Kentucky’s colleges and universities found few institutional policies that guarantee a student’s right to active representation by an attorney or advisor of their choosing in university misconduct cases, even when a student faces suspension or expulsion. Nearly all institutional policies that provide active assistance of counsel apply only in Title IX cases because the 2020 Title IX regulations require institutions to provide this right in that context. As this shows, institutions can provide this crucial protection — to accused students and complainants alike — but most refuse to do so unless the law makes them.

FIRE thanks Rep. Kim Banta and Sen. Ralph Alvarado for championing the bill.

In HB 290, this right attaches when a possible sanction is a suspension of longer than three days up to expulsion, and it allows a student’s attorney to make opening and closing statements, to present evidence, and to cross-examine complainants and witnesses.

Among the other protections guaranteed to students are:

  • The express presumption of innocence;
  • Timely written notice of charges and specific details about the facts giving rise to them;
  • Reasonable, continuous access to the administrative file and evidence in the institution’s possession; and
  • Impartiality from the hearing panel, including a prohibition against an investigator also serving on the hearing panel.

Helpfully, HB 290 also ensures that if an institution violates the bill’s provisions, the student shall be entitled to “actual damages from the institution, including reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.”

Gov. Beshear must sign this bill to ensure that Kentucky remains a leader in protecting the rights of its students. FIRE thanks Rep. Kim Banta, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield for championing the bill, and the 26 cosponsors of the Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act.