Local News

National Attention for KY Lawmaker’s Opposition to Anti-Bullying Bill; River Fields Denies Delaying ORBP; DuPont Fined for Rubbertown Violations; McConnell Questions Obama’s Ohio Visit: Afternoon Review

Profiling a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide after years of alleged anti-gay taunts at school, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered opposition to bullying legislation in Kentucky by highlighting state Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, who believes homosexuality is a sin.

Leaders with the conservation group River Fields rebuffed a resolution introduced in the Louisville Metro Council that blames them for delays to the Ohio River Bridges Project. River Fields Board of Trustees President Lee Cory says city lawmakers and civic leaders are whipping up a mob mentality to demonize the group, adding River Fields is not responsible for the delays.

And in other bridge-related news, engineers say it will take another week-and-a-half to finish their inspection of the Sherman Minton Bridge. Then they’ll be able to determine how long it will take to repair the bridge and re-open it to traffic.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned the motives of President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, alleging it’s more about his re-election than solving the country’s economic woes. The span connecting Kentucky to Ohio was cited in Mr. Obama’s speech before a joint session of Congress earlier this month as an example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure needs.

And the Louisville Air Pollution Control Board voted today to approve a settlement between the city and DuPont for permit violations at the company’s Rubbertown plant. The board order fines the company $51,000.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

CNN Highlights Kentucky Lawmaker’s Opposition to Bullying Bill

Profiling a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide after years of alleged anti-gay taunts at school, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered opposition to bullying legislation in Kentucky by highlighting state Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, who believes homosexuality is a sin.

Earlier this year, state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, introduced a bill that would prohibit bullying because of a student’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

The measure passed by an overwhelming majority in a House committee, but it stalled when Harmon filed a number of amendments, including a provision that allows students to express their religious beliefs against homosexuality as long as their actions do not include physical harm or destruction of property.

“If someone, just in conversation, said, ‘You know, I think homosexuality is a sin,’ well, we don’t want that child to be bullied because they have a certain moral or religious belief,” Harmon told WHAS-11 in March. “And we don’t want them, certainly don’t want them to be labeled a bully just because they have that particular belief.”

Local News

First Superintendent Candidate Answers Public Questions, Some Disappointed in Event

The first superintendent candidate for Jefferson County Public Schools answered questions from the public tonight at Male High School.

Dr. Christine Johns-Haines is currently superintendent of Utica Community Schools in Michigan but says she is excited about the resources available in Louisville.  The questions ranged from bullying and busing to student assignment plans and discipline issues, but Johns-Haines maintained her case-by-case approach towards most issues.

“Let me say this up front, I don’t believe in just adopting programs, there is no silver bullet to fix the problems of schools.”

Johns-Haines emphasized the need to review each issue in depth and make decisions later and refrained from offering many proposals regarding specific issues.

At the forum, Johns-Haines was asked about her budget cutting habits, which she said shouldn’t carry over into Louisville because the funding processes here are different from Utica’s funding. However, she says she is equipped to make hard decisions.

“The hard decisions are having to make those budgetary decisions while trying to protect the academic programs in our schools for our children” says Johns-Haines “so that we don’t get caught with the state trying to take over our schools because they’re not adequately meeting yearly goals or they’re not performing.”

But Jefferson County Teacher’s Association Board Member, Jennifer Alexander, says she was disappointed in the turnout for the event.

Local News

CLOUT Calls for Expanded Bullying Policies

Officials with the organization known as CLOUT say city schools are lacking in solid bullying policies.

Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together is hoping to draw attention to ongoing problems it says have become evident from its research.

Education Research Committee co-chair Chris Kolb says most of the research consists of face to face meetings with members of the school communities. This year, the focus was on bullying.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Parents Of Ballard Student Sue JCPS Over Athletic Policy

The parents of a Ballard High School student are suing Jefferson County Public Schools over the district’s refusal to allow the student to play sports at Ballard this year.

The tenth grader transferred to Ballard from Manual High School, where she had complained of being bullied.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association granted her an exemption to play softball and other sports at Ballard without the usual one-year waiting period for transfers.

However, according to the suit, JCPS would not grant its own waiver because it would violate district policy aimed at preventing school-to-school athlete recruitment.

Attorney Ted Gordon represents the girl’s parents, Steve and Jenny Martin. He says JCPS should abide by the state body’s ruling.

“They (KHSAA) looked at this case, they granted her an exemption, which doesn’t happen very often—without lawyers—this is from a hearing officer that happens quite frequently. I’ve had hearings there, usually they’re denied. In this particular case it was granted,” he said.

A JCPS spokesperson said the district would not comment on pending litigation.

(Pictured, from left: Steve Martin, attorney Ted Gordon, Jenny Martin)

Local News Politics

Anti-Bullying Bill Unlikely to Pass due to Floor Amendments, Sponsors Will Try Again Next Year

by Dalton Main

A bill that would—for the first time in Kentucky—protect students who are bullied because of their sexual orientation is unlikely to pass the General Assembly this year.

The Fairness Campaign’s Chris Hartman is frustrated by what he considers stall tactics imposed on anti bullying legislation this session. He says two amendments sponsored by Representative Mike Harmon are out of line and are simply meant to kill the bill.

“One [amendment] would preserve the right to conceal and carry a firearm on college campuses, which is really non germane to the bill. It has nothing to do with the anti-bullying measure at all,” he says. “The other one would really allow for verbal harassment, bullying and intimidation based on someone’s religious beliefs.”

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Mary Lou Marzian, says there’s not enough time left in this session to work around the amendments, but she’s positive about the bill’s progress.

“We made history, because we got it out of committee, for the first time we’ve had a positive bill that includes sexual orientation. It came out of committee 21-1 but we’re in a short session,” she says. “We will work over the interim to educate folks on it and hopefully bring it back next year when we have the long session.”

She hopes to educate people about it in the interim and is hopeful that legislation will pass next year.

Harmon was unavailable for comment.

Opponents of the bill say current statutes are sufficient. However, many advocates—including students—say bullying based on sexual orientation is prevalent in some schools.

In addition to sexual orientation, the bill amends an existing bullying statute to protect against specific topics including: race, gender, and religion.

Local News Politics

Anti-Bullying Bill Passes House Committee

from Kentucky Public Radio’s Stu Johnson

Legislation designed to better protect gay students from bullies has cleared a committee in the Kentucky House.

Three gay students testified about their experiences with bullying before the committee vote today Tuesday. Among them was Bradley Kaufman, who went to high school in Casey county.

“Many of my teachers had probably never met someone who is LGBT before so they don’t know what to do with it it’s not stated that they have to protect those students,” he said.

Several committee members expressed concern about bullying but indicated current law should address the issue. Sponsor Mary Lou Marzian says the legislation gives school officials power they don’t currently have to better deal with bullies who target gay students.

The bill now goes on to the full House.

Local News

Forum Panel Discusses Bullying

By Sheila Ash

The Louisville Forum today hosted a panel discussion on the subject of bullying in schools, on-line and at work. The panel included representatives from secondary and post secondary schools.

Paul Lenzi, Executive Director of the Blue Apple Players, which has produced several plays focusing on the subject, says bullying is different these days because of technology.

“It’s the internet, it’s the cell phone it’s the fact that when we used to be bullied you were bullied in front of a small group of people and then you’d go home and you could get away from it. Today it never leaves you alone it’s on your phone, it’s on the internet, it’s everywhere you look,” he said.

Tom Robbins, Director of Counseling with the Archdiocese of Louisville says parents need to closely monitor their children’s social networking sites.

Robbins says he believes bullying will be the next big public health concern due to the mental health effects it can have on people, particularly students.