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Bevin’s school comments show disregard for children’s safety

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

Gov. Matt Bevin has once again made national headlines for some of his public remarks about public education in Kentucky.

After many schools districts around the state canceled classes Wednesday because of expected extremely cold temperatures, Bevin had some choice words.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that while speaking to 840 WHAS radio host Terry Meiners Tuesday, Bevin said schools closing because of frigid temperatures is a sign Americans are getting soft.

The transcript read something like:

“Now we cancel school for cold, I mean — “ Bevin said.

“It’s deep freeze; this is serious business,” Meiners responded.

“Come on, now,” Bevin said. “There’s no ice going with it or any snow. What happens to America. We’re getting soft, Terry, we’re getting soft.”

The comments almost immediately sparked outrage among teachers, superintendents, parents and even NBC’s Al Roker.

During Wednesday’s Today Show forecast, Roker called out Bevin for the comment.

“This nitwit governor in Kentucky saying these kids who are going to be in sub-zero wind chills…no! Cancel school,” Roker said. “Adults, if they want to be out there, that’s great. These are our children, you know. I’m glad you’re not a teacher.”

We are thankful for our school systems taking the safety of students seriously.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to extremely cold temperatures and school closings.

Even though temperatures were expected to be about 5 degrees, with the windchill, forecasted “feels like” temperatures dipped to 10 and 20 below in parts of Kentucky.

Many students must wait at bus stops for as much as half an hour and board buses as early as 6 or 6:30 a.m., when temperatures are even more brutal.

Additionally, some of the less fortunate students do not have the proper cold-weather gear to keep warm. With such low temperatures, health agencies were warning to bundle up with multiple layers, covering your face, ears, hands, etc. The sad reality is in a state with a large population gripped by poverty, many families can barely afford coats for their children, let alone these additional cold-weather items.

While buses do have heaters, they are not always effective in warming the numerous children riding on a giant metal vehicle with little to no insulation for an hour or more twice a day.

Many children walk to school in the mornings as well, meaning they would be exposed to the low temperatures and winds for extended periods of time.

Of course, school districts must also consider bus drivers trying to maneuver massive vehicles on slick, dangerous back roads.

And the worries of extremely cold weather go far beyond simply being uncomfortable — it can be dangerous and fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 2,000 weather-related deaths in the U.S. each year, and extreme cold and hypothermia accounted for 63 percent of those deaths.

Bevin said later in the interview that he was being facetious, but that America is sending a message to younger generations that we don’t have to face life’s hardships.

“In America, on this and many other fronts, we’re sending messages to our young people that if life is hard you can curl up in the fetal position somewhere in a warm place and just wait until it stops being hard, and that just isn’t reality. It isn’t,” Bevin said.

Since when did being safe and compassionate become synonymous with being “soft?”

While we fully believe younger generations need to be taught how to face life’s hardships, there is no need to put lives at risk in the process.

To expect young children to stand in freezing temperatures rather than miss a day of school shows an extreme lack of compassion and empathy. It shows that our governor has a real disconnect with the people of this state who are struggling to get by. It shows Bevin does not understand all the intricacies of how schools must consider the wellbeing our students — especially those who are most vulnerable because of poverty

We stand behind the Boyle County and Danville school districts and the dozens of others that decided to put the safety of Kentucky’s children first, and we think Tuesday’s remarks from our governor are just another sign he sincerely needs to learn to think before he speaks.