Henry Clay High School junior Eliza Jane Schaeffer was reaching out on Tuesday to anyone she thought could help remove controversial amendments that threaten a bill that would allow high school students to sit on superintendent screening committees.
Schaeffer, 16, is one of the high school students on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence student voice team who have been lobbying for House Bill 236. The legislation came about after Fayette County Public Schools board members determined that under state law they could not allow students to serve on a superintendent screening committee. The committee screens applicants and makes a recommendation to school boards. Fayette County is searching for a new superintendent to replace Tom Shelton, who resigned as of Dec. 31.
House Bill 236, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, the House Education Committee chairman, passed in the House and was approved Monday by the Senate Education Committee.
But then Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. R-Morgantown, attached an amendment to the bill that would require transgender students to use school bathrooms designated for males if they were born male and for females if they were born female.
State Sen. Albert Robinson R-London, filed an amendment to House Bill 236 to permit students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination.
Both amendments, which contain language from individual bills that have not seen movement in the House, threaten the passage of House Bill 236, said Rachel Belin, the student voice team director for the Prichard Committee.
"We have a whole network of students from throughout the state and adult allies calling legislators between classes all day. We are trying very hard to get these riders off our bill before it hits the floor" on Wednesday, Belin said. Wednesday will be the 26th day of the 28-day General Assembly.
"I am frustrated that the riders are on because they completely change the premise of our bill," Schaeffer said. "We would like to pass a clean bill."
Embry and Robinson could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
But on Tuesday the Washington Post quoted Robinson as saying, "They either let our bill through, or we will attach it to legislation such as this."
Robinson told the newspaper that he likes the student-driven bill but has to send a message to the Democratic leadership in the House.
Belin said that state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington has filed an "emergency" amendment so that if passed, the change in law can be applied to current superintendent searches.