The Slatest

Kentucky Governor Blames Shooting of 7-Year-Old on Teacher Protests

Matt Bevin speaks at an event.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks at an event on Feb. 21 in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who once before sparked outrage over wild and speculative claims about striking teachers, is facing condemnation by state Democrats after saying on Thursday that he blamed the accidental shooting of a 7-year-old girl on teachers striking for better classroom funding, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

“[W]e had people pretending to be sick when they weren’t sick and leaving kids unattended to or in situations that they should not have been in,” he told the crowd at the Louisville Rotary Club. “A little girl was shot, 7 years old, by another kid because they were somewhere that they weren’t intended to be and because the parent didn’t have any option, and put them into a situation so they could go to work.”

Bevin’s apparent reference to a March 12 shooting in Shively, Kentucky—in which the girl survived—doesn’t get the details quite right. The girl’s guardian, her uncle, was outside when she was shot in the head by her 11-year-old brother inside their home. And while Jefferson County Public Schools had been closed at the time because of the teacher protests, it’s not known whether the two children, who have not been identified, attended public schools in the county.

In responding to a question about stemming gun violence, Bevin, who opposes any additional firearm regulations, brought up the teachers’ protests unprompted.

The public school teachers had staged a “sick-out” during six days in February and March, calling in sick en masse. (It is illegal for teachers to actually strike in Kentucky.) The teachers had for weeks been demanding better funding for their classrooms and for their pension systems, following another national wave of protests by public school teachers.

The teachers conducted their first mass sick-out in 2018 after lawmakers surprised them with a pension-reform measure tacked onto another bill originally meant to deal with “wastewater services.” (The resulting law was ultimately struck down by the state Supreme Court because of the way in which it was passed.) They followed up with more protests over school funding, and Bevin, frustrated by a teacher rally in April 2018 that shut down schools statewide, told reporters that children were being abused as a result of the protests.

“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin said. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.” He also guessed that some children were “introduced to drugs for the first time.”

Bevin—who in January said that school cancellations during the deadly polar vortex proved that America was “getting soft”—faced a backlash for those comments. According to the Courier Journal, Bevin’s popularity plummeted soon after he made the remarks, and a new poll showed him to be the least popular governor in the country.