In a final push for a bill that would allow high school students to sit on superintendent screening committees, members of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence's Student Voice Team are planning a rally on the Capitol steps in Frankfort Monday.
Students said Tuesday the event is necessary as Kentucky's General Assembly draws to a close because two Republican senators put on House Bill 236 unrelated controversial amendments that threaten its passage.
"We are holding the rally to demonstrate support for a clean HB 236 without unfriendly amendments, to show legislators that student voice matters and to prove that our generation can make a difference," said Eliza Jane Schaeffer, 16, a Henry Clay junior who is co-chairing the rally.
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Rachel Belin, the student voice team director for the Prichard Committee, said students are tapping into their youth networks throughout the state and planning a rally at 10:30 a.m. Monday in Frankfort. People can follow the event on Twitter at #StandWithStudents, she said. Monday and Tuesday are the last days of this General Assembly session.
The high school students began pushing for change when 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.
The Fayette County school board is working to replace Tom Shelton, who resigned as superintendent in December.
House Bill 236, sponsored by House Education Committee chairman Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, passed in the House and was approved by the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. R-Morgantown, attached an unrelated 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. Embry could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, filed an unrelated amendment to House Bill 236 to permit students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination.
Both amendments contain language from individual bills that stalled in the House.
Robinson said in an interview Tuesday that he thinks House Bill 236 has a better chance of passing with his amendment on it. He said thousands of people support his amendment. Robinson said he thinks his amendment does more for students than the original House Bill 236 would.
Robinson said that no student from his district had told him they were in favor of the superintendent screening committee bill.
In response, Belin said, "Our argument all along has been our bill passed on its own merits. His bill is unrelated to ours. Whether it's a good or bad bill is not the issue. It's not our bill."
Graham, meanwhile, said Tuesday he hoped Senate leadership would come together and support the bill without amendments. Graham said he applauded the students' efforts. "They are forceful but respectful. They are persevering," Graham said. "I don't sell them short."