The middle school trip was particularly notable because of an accomplishment of one of the teams of students that went. At the conference, several groups of students present a bill that they would like to see become state law. Student delegations acting as Senators and Representatives vote on the bills. If a bill is passed by both the House and Senate and isn’t vetoed by the student acting as the governor, it is sent to the Kentucky Legislative Research Committee and might actually stand the chance of being adopted by the General Assembly as law.
One of the middle school groups wrote a bill that passed through this process, and Ford-Stagner said that a legislator decided to sponsor it, it could possibly become law. The bill would require Kentucky educational institutions to accommodate the special needs of students with dyslexia. The bill was titled “An act to require that dyslexia be recognized as a specific learning disability in Kentucky Schools.” It was written by Ellie Jolly, A. J. Sholar, Brooklyn Thomas and Amanda Want.
Jolly said that Vicki Likens encouraged their group to do some research on dyslexia. Likens used to teach special education and had seen the difficulties that dyslexic students can go through. Jolly said that they found through their research that 80 percent of learning disabilities can be classified as dyslexia, and they thought it was unfair that schools weren’t required to give special help with the disability.
Ford-Stagner said that people with dyslexia are often very intelligent, but that many of them did not perform well on accountability tests because of their disability. She said that even though Kentucky schools do not recognize dyslexia as a specific learning disability, there are many other categories of students with special needs that the state is required to meet. These include autism, blindness, emotional disorders, mental retardation, speech impairment, visual impairment, orthopedic impairment and traumatic brain injuries. There is also an “other” category, which includes children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she said.
Jolly said that each group with a bill presented their bill to a student delegation in hotel conference rooms. If the bills were ranked high enough, they could move on to other committees. She said they were ranked based on presentation, feasibility, importance to Kentucky, preparation and creativity.
Jolly said that the Kentucky Youth Assembly was an amazing opportunity for every participating student to learn how the state legislative process works. Although she said she loves to speak in front of people, others can be more nervous. However, she said that the conference helps build confidence and learn a great deal. She said she was proud of how well their bill was received, and that some of the student delegation them how important they thought the bill was. Several of them had siblings with dyslexia, she said.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.