January 12, 2022
Kentucky Student Voice Team Rallies Youth to Oppose Bills that would Limit Free Discussion in Classrooms
(FRANKFORT) Today, the Kentucky Student Voice Team joined students and educators from across the Commonwealth to rally against two bills which, if passed, would undermine teaching and learning truthful history and accounts of current events.
The Defenders of Accurate History, a Facebook group of educators and other concerned citizens, convened the rally in the rotunda of the state capitol Wednesday afternoon to oppose House Bills 14 and 18. The bills make it illegal to use curriculum which engages students on the role race and other layers of identity play in America, among other prohibited content. Additionally, House Bill 14 would allow any local resident who suspects the law has been violated to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, which then can impose fines until the issue is rectified.
The Stop the Teacher Gag Bill Rally featured remarks from three students. The Kentucky Student Voice Team’s Research Lead Pragya Upreti, a senior at Lafayette High School in Lexington; TaMyra Johnson, a senior at Fern Creek High School in Louisville; and Tyler Terrell, an 8th grader at Leestown Middle School in Lexington. Dozens more students held signs, some of which read “Teach Honest History,” “Diversify our Curriculum,” and “Students for Critical Conversations.”
Speaking to the crowd, Terrell told the story of how his school’s failure to teach more about Black or Asian history made him think that his history was irrelevant and that the bills would only add to the problem. “I feel very unrepresented in my education,” he said.
Upreti argued that Kentucky students are living in a world that is more diverse and different than the one in which parents and policymakers grew up and that the bills would undermine what young people need to be successful in it. “The ability to better understand diverse perspectives and people is not only an essential civic skill, but it is also the key to flourishing in a dynamic economy,” she said.
Some students focused on how the bills would counter the central mission of public education.
“These bills and their supporters seek to hinder open dialogue, limit free speech, and work against the democratic values we should uphold in our public schools,” said Norah Laughter, a senior from Greenwood High School in Bowling Green.
Other students focused on how the bills could impact what they learn about in class.
“It is extremely important to have honest conversations about race and cultural diversity because it is simply the reality of the world we live in,” said Esha Bawja, a senior at Fern Creek High School, adding, “to jeopardize this freedom of discussion is to actively withhold the truth from students.”
The Kentucky Student Voice Team is a statewide organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners.