An open records request by Kentucky Today has revealed Jefferson County Public School teachers’ extensive involvement in the organization, facilitation, and encouragement of a student protest of SB 150 this past March. The bill, which prohibits K-5 sex education, protects the consciences of teachers, and requires restroom use consistent with biological sex, had been vetoed by Governor Andy Beshear. Hundreds of students, teachers, and supporters participated in the rally.

While JCPS described the protest as a student-led field trip, email chains between teachers from different schools paint a picture of detailed collaboration between students, teachers, and “allies.” Many of the teachers included preferred pronouns in their signature lines and discussed the logistical challenges of transporting hundreds of students. One teacher who originally led the event noted that she would bring 25 students and a bus but admitted, “I don’t feel comfortable taking on a hundreds-wide rally simply as a high school teacher with only a week to organize it.”

Various other teachers and a local professor stepped in. One was from Atherton High School and identified himself as a “Japanese teacher, sponsor for Japanese club and Skittles Squad, resident demon slayer, Atherton SBDM Council member, LGBTQ+ District Committee member.” (The Skittles Squad is the student LGBTQ+ organization.) He noted that a security guard from the school would attend, cafeteria staff would prepare sack lunches, and his students would write an assignment about their reasons for protesting.

The teacher also responded to a student question about the protest, for which he served as a chaperone: “Students will be going to the capitol to rally legislators to not override the Governor’s veto on anti-trans legislation. Students will also meet representatives and tour the campus. We are estimating 300-400 youth in attendance at present.”

A Louisville State Representative is questioning whether Jefferson County Public Schools are using their resources wisely. State Rep. John Hodgson (R-Louisville) was incensed at the revelation. “I think when a third of our students in JCPS can’t read, can’t do simple, math, and are on track to be unemployable when they graduate, is a horrible waste of taxpayers’ resources and student time to take a day off from instruction and go protest issues at the Capitol,” Hodgson said. “It also strains credulity to suggest that the school administration was not promoting this activity.” 

Since Kentucky schools are some of the poorest performing in the nation, it’s indefensible that teachers would spend their time shuttling students out of the classroom to engage in controversial political activism. JCPS has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid intended to help students recover from COVID-19 closures. Carrie McKeehan, a Louisville parent, noted that such allocation of resources calls into question their stewardship of public tax dollars. “We pay taxes to send students to classrooms to learn as opposed to engaging in politics. It’s time we focus on raising academic scores instead of political agendas.”

Such daring and radical activism by public school teachers and public school students underscored the necessity of the bill. Most parents would agree that politicizing students isn’t what they signed up for.  They expect public school teachers to cultivate academic excellence and moral character through an age-appropriate curriculum, not lead their children out of the classroom and onto the picket line.