Published November 26, 2012
Complaint filed against Kentucky teacher who wrote 'You can't be a Democrat & go to heaven'Bill Estep
The mother of a Laurel County high school student has filed a complaint against a teacher who wrote "You can't be a Democrat & go to heaven" on her classroom whiteboard.The teacher, Kendra Baker, wrote the statement denigrating Democrats in her room at South Laurel High School the week after the Nov. 6 election, said Mary Gilbert.Gilbert's daughter, Chelsea, 17, was in Baker's psychology class."I feel like she was bullied by a teacher," Gilbert said of her daughter.Gilbert said she filed a complaint against Baker with the state Education Professional Standards Board, which issues credentials to teachers.Attempts by the Herald-Leader to reach Baker for comment were not successful.Laurel County Superintendent Doug Bennett confirmed Monday that the teacher's actions violated the school district's policy and that the issue had been addressed with her.Bennett declined to confirm the teacher's name or say what had happened to her. However, he said he felt the district's response had been appropriate and is confident there would not be another problem with the teacher, a veteran educator popular with many students."She realizes it's inappropriate," Bennett said of putting the statement on her board.Gilbert said Baker continues to teach, and that she is not satisfied with the district's response.The Kentucky Equality Federation condemned Baker's act in a statement released Monday, which said the group plans to file complaints with state officials.The statement had no place in a classroom, where it could intimidate students or make them feel like their views were less valuable, members of the federation said in the news release.Gilbert said the problem started before Baker wrote the statement on her board. The day after the election, there was discussion in Baker's psychology class about the presidential vote.President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but in Laurel County, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 3 to 1, Romney trounced Obama by a vote of 18,151 to 3,905.During the classroom discussion, Baker made remarks in class against same-sex marriage, Gilbert said.Chelsea Gilbert, an admirer of Obama, told Baker she was offending people, Mary Gilbert said.There are gay students in the class, Gilbert said.Gilbert said Baker responded by telling Chelsea she would someday have to take her parents to the emergency room and watch them die because of the president's health care reform law, commonly called Obamacare.The exchange upset Chelsea, who came home crying, Gilbert said.Gilbert said she called the principal at South Laurel and asked that Baker be required to apologize to Chelsea and other students, but that did not happen.The following Tuesday, Nov. 13, is when Baker wrote the line about Democrats on her board.Baker said she had heard the line from a student, and that it was one of her new favorite quotes, Gilbert said."My daughter was very offended by it," Gilbert said.Gilbert said her daughter did not want to talk with the Herald-Leader about the incident. She recounted what Chelsea told her.Gilbert said she called the superintendent's office the next day, and school officials looked into her complaint.School officials later told her Baker had apologized to Chelsea, but said she had felt Chelsea would be able to take a joke, Gilbert said.Gilbert said Baker apologized to her as well, saying she considered the statement about Democrats a joke and that she put it on her board to share with a colleague and forgot to erase it.Gilbert said she doesn't buy Baker's explanation."I believe it was put up for my daughter's sake," Gilbert said of the statement.Gilbert withdrew Chelsea from school and plans to teach her at home for the remainder of her senior year.Gilbert said she didn't want her daughter to face repercussions or comments because she had complained about Baker, but that it's a shame Chelsea won't be at school to take part in activities her senior year."She's going to miss a lot," Gilbert said.