Kentucky Gov. Bevin suggests teacher protests to blame for shooting of 7-year-old girl

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday linked the shooting of a 7-year-old girl to public school teachers calling out sick to rally for more funding for classrooms and their pension systems.

Speaking to the Louisville Rotary Club, Bevin, a Republican, took a question about how to stem gun violence. In his response, he apparently referred to a March 12 incident in the city of Shively in which a girl was put in intensive care after her 11-year-old brother accidentally shot her.

The children’s uncle had guardianship at the time, and he was outside the home doing work when the shooting happened, Fox 19 Now reported.

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“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,” Bevin said. “A little girl was shot, seven years old, by another kid because they were somewhere they weren’t intended to be, and because the parent didn’t have any option to put them in a situation so they could go to work, that left these kids in a compromised situation when they encountered a gun and not enough awareness.”

Teachers throughout the state staged “sickouts” during the recently-concluded legislative session, leading some districts to cancel classes. Jefferson County public schools in Louisville closed six times between Feb. 28 and March 14.

The district was closed on the date of the shooting, but it is not clear if the children – who have not been identified by authorities – attended public schools in Jefferson County, the Courier-Journal reported.

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Bevin, who is running for reelection, drew harsh criticism from Democrats and a prominent education organization for connecting the shooting to the protests.

The Kentucky Democratic Party released a statement slamming Bevin’s comments as “disgusting and unforgivable.”

"He’s completely out of control,” the statement said. “Kentuckians deserve better than this.”

The Kentucky Education Association, which represents more than 40,000 active and retired educators statewide, tweeted: "To politicize the tragic shooting of a child is beneath the dignity of the office Matt Bevin has rarely acted as if he holds."

Bevin criticized reporters for seizing on his remarks about the child’s shooting and teacher protests, saying the focus should be on issues more pressing to the people of Kentucky.

"The only thing you all are pumping out there is talking this 7-year-old girl who was shot — really? That's pretty sad," Bevin said. "And it's why our state is struggling, because we're not focusing on things that are important."

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Last spring, Bevin sparked a backlash when he alleged that teacher protests would result in children being sexually assaulted. He later apologized for the comment.