#teacher | Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky Is Criticized for Blaming Teacher Strikes for Girl’s Shooting

Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, came under criticism from state Democrats on Friday for suggesting that teachers on strike were to blame for the shooting of a 7-year-old girl who had stayed home because of school closures. The remarks were the latest to ignite controversy for the governor, who faces low approval ratings ahead of an election in November.

“One thing you almost didn’t hear anything about while we had people pretending to be sick when they weren’t sick and leaving kids unattended to or in situations that they should not have been in — a little girl was shot, 7 years old, by another kid,” he said in a speech before the Rotary Club of Louisville on Thursday.

“Because they were somewhere that they weren’t intended to be, because the parent didn’t have any option,” he added.

Democrats hit back. The Kentucky Democratic Party posted video of Mr. Bevin’s remarks and said, “We need better leadership in the governor’s office, and Matt Bevin will never provide it.”

The party and others also pointed to previous remarks by Mr. Bevin connecting teachers’ strikes with a rise in crimes committed against or by children.

In April 2018, when teachers were protesting at the State Capitol, Mr. Bevin said they were exposing children to danger. “Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone,” he had said, according to The Courier-Journal.

The Kentucky Democrats said on Friday: “First it was sexual assault; now it’s an accidental shooting. This is disgusting and unforgivable.”

Mr. Bevin did not specify in his comments on Thursday which shooting he was referring to, and his office did not reply to an email on Friday seeking comment.

Numerous public schools in the state have been closed this year after teachers called in sick as a protest against budget proposals that would reduce public education funds. Because it is illegal in Kentucky for state employees to strike, educators have used their sick days to protest.

The election for governor is on Nov. 5, and Mr. Bevin, who was elected as the state’s 62nd governor in 2015, is eligible to run for a second term.

Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general and a Democratic candidate for governor, said Mr. Bevin’s remarks linking teachers to the shooting meant he was “unfit to govern.”

Local news outlets reported that Mr. Bevin was probably referring to a shooting that wounded a 7-year-old girl in Shively, in the Louisville area, on March 12. According to the police, the girl was not home alone at her apartment building but was in the care of her uncle, who is her legal guardian.

The girl was accidentally shot in the face by her 11-year-old brother, who had found a handgun in a lock box that was believed to have been secured, Lt. Col. Josh Myers of the Shively Police Department said in an interview on Friday. The bullet entered her left cheek and exited through the base of her skull, he said.

She survived and is expected to be released from the hospital on Friday, he said.

The children are students at public schools in Jefferson County, which was one of 10 districts statewide that were closed between Feb. 28 and March 14 for teacher “sick-outs,” some only for a few days. But the girl was shot around 3 p.m., and dismissal times of 2:20 p.m. meant a student of her age would have been out of school anyway.

“To politicize the tragic shooting of a child is beneath the dignity of the office Matt Bevin has rarely acted as if he holds,” the Kentucky Education Association, which represents 40,000 educators, said in a statement on Thursday.

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