Kentucky’s Student Voice Team

Controversial amendments on student bill to be protested at the capital


Student Voice Team members including Dunbar seniors Susie Smith, Meghana Kudrimoti and Sahil Nair.

Kentucky’s Student Voice Team got their first bitter taste at politics last week when lawmakers got in the way of their widely supported bill, HB 236 which would give students a voice on the appointment of school superintendents.

The bill set out to allow high school students -like ourselves- be appointed on committees to decide on new superintendents. When it comes to education, it shouldn’t be hard to get behind the idea that the students themselves should have a say in who is to lead the state’s educational system.

As the 2015 legislative session came to a close however, Kentucky lawmakers pulled an old trick that would later doom the hopeful students’ bill.

The Student Voice Team, an educational advocacy group organized by the Prichard Academy for Excellence, began their long journey to the capitol when Fayette County Public Schools set out to find a new superintendent and denied the group a place in the conversation due to state law.

So these students decided to fight back. They were fighting for not only their voices to be heard, but those of all students in Kentucky. 

We spend 35 hours in the classroom every week, we know what happens and we know what works for us and what doesn’t

— Meghana Kudrimoti

“If you were to ask a student, does the remedial geometry class work? They would be the only ones to be able to tell you whether it actually works or not,”said committee chair, senior Meghana Kudrimoti.

The students earned the support of Democratic State Representative Derrick Graham to sponsor their bill and exercised their voice in Frankfort to testify before legislative committees. The bill, months in the making, was coming towards a strong finish and was nearly approved before the ugly side of politics came to surface.

The bill was easily passed through the Democrat-led Kentucky House by 88-5 but once it reached the Republican-led Senate the fate of an innocent bill became the battleground between the long rivaled Republicans and Democrats.

When the bill reached the Senate, Sen. C. B. Embry Jr. (R) amended an addition which added crippling controversy to the much favored bill.  The amendment would now ban transgender students from using school bathrooms that didn’t match their birth sex, a controversial bill that was previously rejected by the Democratic House.


On top of that, Sen. Albert Robinson (R) tacked on an equally controversial amendment which was meant to protect students’ religious speech at school.

The addition of the two amendments came unexpected for many of the SVT members and made the process all the more frustrating.

“They’re completely unrelated to our bill; it has nothing to do with education. It’s like a partisan issue and it doesn’t need to be,” commented member Reilly Voit.

What began as a simple well supported bill to make student’s voices heard became clouded with political backlash from the Republican Senate towards the Democratic House for not passing their bills.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sen. Robinson threatened that “they either let our bill through, or we will attach it to legislation such as this. You either sacrifice your own bill or you pass what you should have passed to start with.”

In a House of Cards-esque turn of events, the beloved bill was indeed sacrificed and the students are the ones that have to suffer the consequences of the battle as old as time between Democrats and Republicans.

Caught between the left and right wing, our bill was torn in half. It appears that the decision for our future superintendent will remain in the hands of board appointees, rather than the students which the decision will ultimately affect.

Despite the turn of events, the bill still has a chance at being heard again when the legislative sessions begin again on March 23.

On that day, SVT members and supporters will be rallying at the capitol steps at 10:30 a.m. in Frankfort in order to make their voices heard again. Students are encouraged to join the rally and their absence would be officially excused. More information can be found by contacting [email protected] with questions.

While there is still hope for the bill, the events that played out earlier this week showed what politics can do to a perfectly good bill. The events also went on to receive attention from well known news services such as US News and The Courier Journal.

Among all the controversy though, one thing is certain: pettiness plagues our nation’s politics and our students had to pay the price this time.