Our View: LGBTQ+ students deserve to feel safe at school


Wesley Hammer/The News

Will Groves, Opinions Editor

Kentucky schools once again have found themselves as the target of Republican politicians in the new legislative session. 

The Kentucky State House and Senate Education Committees introduced three bills on Feb. 7 targeting “wokeness” in schools. Their solution to “wokeness” is involving parents in the curriculum when discussing sexuality and gender expression.

Senate Bills 150, 173 and 177 all introduce restrictions on our educators that would require them to inform parents if their child decides to use different pronouns or dress differently from their gender assigned at birth. These bills also introduce bans on the discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual expression.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, the sponsor of SB 150, told Kentucky Today “woke ideologies are creating a barrier to student education.” 

Wise was announced in September 2022 as the running mate to Kelly Craft, former ambassador to Canada under the Trump administration, in the 2023 Kentucky governor’s race. Craft and Wise are running on a campaign promise of fighting the “woke” agenda and dismantling the Kentucky Department of Education. 

Wokeness in schools has been a controversial topic for Republican politicians around the United States, especially after the passing of HB 1557 (“Don’t Say Gay” law) in Florida. This law, passed under the label of strengthening parental rights, banned all discussion of gender identity for students until the third grade and severely limited what can be discussed by the teachers. This law was highly publicized and protested by students across Florida as the first blow in a series of anti-LGBTQ+ legislative acts. Kentucky teachers do not need more restrictive legislation; they need better funding and less restriction.

The sponsors of the proposedbills ignore the dangers their bills, if passed, can cause for LGBTQ+ students in Kentucky. Forcing teachers to report to parents if their child decides to use different pronouns can open these students to hostility or even danger from family members and schoolmates. By making teachers mandatory reporters of LGBTQ+ students, our legislators are negatively affecting how students can interact with their teachers on a daily basis. A classroom becomes a police state.

Kentucky students have also decided they have had enough suppression of LGBTQ+ discussion. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, hundreds of students from Atherton High School in Louisville staged a walkout in protest of HB 173 and 177, and as we get further into the legislative session, we will definitely see similar displays of frustration with upcoming legislation. Our politicians should be listening to the people their policies affect. 

This new wave of anti-LGBTQ+ and “anti-woke” legislation is being pushed through the Kentucky legislature under the guise of providing parents with more rights in determining what their children are allowed to learn and discuss in their classes. A majority of us at The News believe our lawmakers should be focusing on more pressing issues than outing transgender students and regulating the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in school.

Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Jason Glass was criticized several times by the education committee members for his views regarding the teacher shortage. In testimony before the committee, Glass argued one of the reasons why teachers are leaving the profession is because of “the politicization of education over the past few years.” Our Kentucky schools should not become the battlefields for the political warfare of our legislators. Students should be able to attend school to learn and not be bombarded with more rules and restrictions than the ones already set by the Kentucky Department of Education.

The current Kentucky Department of Education website provides links for supporting LGBTQ+ students, like how to use preferred names and pronouns and supporting diversity and inclusivity. If the bill passes, the concepts presented on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website would have to be adjusted to require teachers to be mandatory reporters of their LGBTQ+ students and would disrupt the trust and confidentiality students have with their teachers. The pandemic brought focus to the mental health of our students, and this bill undermines the progress we have made in the fight for better mental health.

Our students should not be dragged into the political battle over “wokeness” that is happening in the United States. These bills have not been put into law yet, so contact your local legislators to express your views or concerns on SBs 150, 173 and 177. Students should only have to be concerned about the math test this week or whether the cafeteria is serving fries today, not their safety being jeopardized by their legislators.