Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Kentucky's No Pass-No Drive Statute: Flawed or Flawless?

Academic journal article Journal of Law and Education

Kentucky's No Pass-No Drive Statute: Flawed or Flawless?

Article excerpt


Drop out of school, and you might as well drop your car keys. In Kentucky, under its latest revision of its No Pass-No Drive law,1 any student (under 18) who drops out of school or is declared to be academically deficient will have his or her driver's license revoked or denied.2 While the purpose behind this law is admirable, (deterring students from dropping out of school prior to graduation3) it has two crucial flaws: the No-Pass No-Drive law does not contain a special circumstances provision, which allows for drop-out students to have a license if extraordinary conditions are present or a GED provision, which allows students working towards a GED to have a license.4

In theory, a No Pass-No Drive law is beneficial and should be implemented because of the positive effects it could have on drop-out rates. Kentucky currently ranks 36 out of 50 states for drop-out rates,5 and over the past ten years, Kentucky's drop-out rate has steadily increased.6 The bulk of the drop-outs occur in the tenth grade, with the total number of drop-outs during the 2004-2005 school year being 8,588.7

Under Kentucky's current statute, a student is considered to have dropped out of school if the student has "nine (9) or more unexcused absences in the preceding semester."8 A student is considered to be academically deficient "when he has not received passing grades in at least four (4) courses, or the equivalent of four (4) courses, in the preceding semester."9 The statute also allows for the local school board to adopt appropriate policies for similar standards for alternative education students, part-time students, or special needs students.10

Kentucky is not the only state to enact a No Pass-No Drive type of statute. Other states, including many surrounding Kentucky, have also passed versions of this statute." However, unlike Kentucky, many statutes contain general provisions allowing students with special circumstances to possess a license even though they do not meet the statute's criteria.12 Also, many of these other statutes contain provisions regarding how earning a GED instead of graduation should be treated.13 Because Kentucky does not address these issues, Kentucky's No PassNo Drive statute is inadequate and overly harsh.

The purpose of this Note is to show the inadequacies of Kentucky's No Pass-No Drive Statute. The Note will first examine the prospect of a special circumstances provision by examining other states' versions of No Pass-No Drive laws and then explores reasons why such a provision is beneficial. The Note will then examine the possibility of a GED provision and also explain the benefits of such a provision. Finally, this Note will propose that Kentucky's statute be amended to include other provisions.


Kentucky's statute provides that a school board can provide its own policies for dealing with special education students, alternative education students, or part-time students.14 In spite of this, Kentucky maintains a bright-line rule approach for exceptions to the No Pass-No Drive statute. The statute only allows for a student to have his or her license reinstated if the court finds one of three conclusions:

(a) The license is needed to meet family obligations or family economic considerations which, if unsatisfied, would create undue hardship; or

(b) The student is the only licensed driver in the household; or

(c) The student is not considered a dropout or academically deficient pursuant to this section.15

Other states use a case-by-case approach, which is implemented by adding a general special circumstances provision, allowing courts to consider all the circumstances to determine whether a student should be allowed to reinstate his or her license.16 This approach is used instead of the bright-line rules and the individual school board policies for different types of students. This approach functions better because it allows the court to determine rules referring to special circumstances, instead of leaving some policy determinations to the school board. …

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