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November 29, 2012

South Laurel mother files complaint against teacher

Believes political message was written deliberately

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A South Laurel High School student's mother has filed a complaint with the state Education Professional Standards Board against psychology teacher Kendra Baker who recently wrote a defamatory statement about Democrats on her classroom whiteboard.

Baker allegedly wrote "You can't be a Democrat & go to Heaven" on her white board after a heated political debate in her class on Nov. 7, the day after the re-election of President Barack Obama.

According to Superintendent Doug Bennett, the accused teacher heard the statement from a student then proceeded to write it on her board.  He stated that it was not a part of the curriculum or lesson plan and was a blatant opinion following the recent Presidential election.

However, Mary M. Gilbert said she believes the statement was written sometime after the class ended that day, intentionally for her daughter to see.  

Gilbert said her daughter, Chelsea, 17, initially came home from school upset because of the demeaning comments and jeers against the Democratic party that followed the political debate within the classroom.

"The teacher and another student were heated and that's when Chelsea felt like other kids were getting offended," Gilbert said of her daughter's experience.  Gilbert said Chelsea stood up for other students in the class.  "Then the teacher made a remark about ObamaCare to Chelsea."

According to Gilbert, Baker told her daughter that she would someday have to take her parents to the emergency room and watch them die because of "ObamaCare," the president's health care reform law.

As soon as Chelsea arrived home from school on Nov. 7, she told her mother about the incident.

"Immediately she told me, and couldn't hardly talk for crying because she felt upset, and felt like she was bullied by the teacher," Gilbert said.

The following day, on Nov. 8, Chelsea returned to Baker's classroom and noticed the statement on her whiteboard.  She took a photo of the statement and sent it to the Laurel County School District administration and the Sentinel-Echo.

Bennett confirmed on Friday, Nov. 16 the teacher's actions were in violation of district policy No. 8.1353 on controversial issues, and she was reprimanded and asked to apologize to her students.

Bennett stated the teacher's actions were "inappropriate" and she regretted her mistake.

When contacted, neither Bennett nor School District Attorney Larry Bryson wished to comment on the recently filed complaint by Gilbert.  

Gilbert has since removed her daughter from the school system.  Chelsea will be home schooled for the remainder of her senior year, and at the time of removal, Gilbert said Baker personally apologized to her.  

Gilbert's complaint against Baker was filed with the state Education Professional Standards Board on Nov. 14. She stated she doesn't wish for Baker to lose her job but hopes that this never happens again to any student in the public school system.

"We live in a very Republican County, but they need to keep their opinions to themselves, especially them being professionals," Gilbert said. "When you educate your kids, you want them to make their own decisions…and if this is allowed to happen, to push their opinions — this is wrong."

Attempts to contact Baker were unsuccessful.

CLARIFICATION:

Kendra Baker, a South Laurel High School teacher who is allegedly accused of writing an "inappropriate" political statement on her classroom whiteboard, is not the same Kendra J. (Hoskins) Baker who teaches third grade at Cold Hill Elementary School.



mmccrarey@sentinel-echo.com

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