Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin apologized Sunday after recently saying school closings caused by teacher protests in his state were responsible for the sexual assault or poisoning of children left at home alone during that time.
“Clearly a tremendous number of people did not fully appreciate what it was that I was communicating,” Bevin said in a video posted to YouTube.
“Many people have been confused or hurt or just misunderstand what it was that I was trying to communicate. That’s my responsibility ― it truly is. And I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said.”
Bevin’s apology follows fierce backlash sparked by comments he made about the teacher protests two days earlier.
“I’m offended by the fact that people so cavalierly, and so flippantly, disregarded what’s truly best for children,” Bevin said Friday at an impromptu news conference captured on video after teachers rallied at the state Capitol to stop school funding cuts.
Bevin also dissed protesting teachers for “hangin’ out, shoes off ... smokin’, leavin’ trash around, takin’ the day off.”
Bevin said “for a fact .... hundreds of thousands” of children were left home alone because schools were closed in 39 districts across the state to allow teachers and administrators to protest funding cuts.
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” he said. “I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
Bevin said, that in some “communities,” his fellow Kentuckians knew children would be home alone and “took advantage of it.” He added: “As surely as we’re having this conversation, children were harmed, some physically, some sexually. Some were introduced to drugs for the first time because they were vulnerable and left alone. It’s offensive. It really is.”
Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler told The Louisville Courier-Journal that she was “appalled” by Bevin’s remarks. Organizers said parents were given plenty of notice about school closings.
Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim told the Courier-Journal that using Bevin’s logic, schools should never close.
“The fact is, every school district did its level best to let parents know school was going to be closed with as much notice as possible,” McKim said. “The bottom line is that’s one day. He was cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from kids that would impact every day, and that’s what we were in Frankfort to stop. We were there with the overwhelming support and encouragement of our parents who know that we care about every student in our classes.”
This story has been updated to include Bevin’s apology.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.