Earlier this year the education committee of the Kentucky House considered a school anti-bullying bill that would have guaranteed protections to students based on race, religion, learning disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The debate focused on these last two categories. The lawmakers heard moving testimony from parents of children who had killed themselves after being bullied because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or identity.
"No child should be afraid to go to school because of bullying," said one of the parents.
Despite these pleas, the committee failed to pass the bill on a strictly party-line vote.
Thankfully, the outcome was different at the Fayette County school board last month when it unanimously approved extending its non-discrimination policy, which had covered race, creed, color or religion, to include gender identity and sexual orientation. The policy applies to students, teachers and other employees.
It is hard, if not impossible to learn while suffering from anxiety and fear.
A policy alone won't end bullying or discrimination but it does send a strong message that this community won't endorse or tolerate either, for anyone. School, it says, is a place to learn for everyone.
The 40,000 Lexington youngsters who began a new school year Wednesday deserve nothing less. Neither do their counterparts across the state, though, sadly, most of them will have to wait a while longer.
The Fayette school board also responsibly voted, again unanimously, to raise property taxes to 67.4 cents per $100,000 of value from 65.2 cents. This will cost property owners an additional $22 annually per $100,000 of value. The increase will partially be used to offset an anticipated drop in state support and to provide modest pay raises for teachers and other employees.
Although tax increases are never popular and particularly not now, no one spoke against the increase at the meeting. This is a credit to the community's willingness to invest in education and to the district's reputation for sound financial management.