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Kentucky editorial roundup

April 10, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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April 4

Daily News on sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment has no place in the work environment.

Those who commit such an offensive act need to be terminated immediately. Unfortunately, it will continue to happen against women and men, and when it does it needs to be reported immediately so that a hostile workplace does not exist and the victim can work in a normal environment.

Our state watched in late 2017 as it became public that four members of the state legislature were involved in a secret sexual harassment settlement. They were state Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who was speaker of the House at the time, former state Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, state Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, and former state Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge.

Hoover admitted they acted inappropriately with a legislative staffer but said there were no sexual relations. Linder admitted that he was involved in the settlement and said what he did was wrong. DeCesare and Meredith stayed silent to the media throughout the whole process.

Hoover and his colleagues attended mandatory anti-harassment training in January 2018. It’s part of reforms put in place several years ago after some state workers sued a former Democratic state representative for sexual harassment.

Although this training was closed to the public, we thought it was at least a good place to start to convey the point that you can’t sexually harass someone in the workplace.

Hoover lost his speakership position and DeCesare and Meredith were stripped of their committee chairmanships due to their involvement in the secret sexual harassment settlement.

In this year’s session, House Bill 60 was introduced. The bill would have made sexual harassment an offense under the ethics code for state lawmakers, as the legislature’s current ethics code doesn’t currently prohibit sexual harassment. The bill also created a new process for reporting harassment complaints. Legislators, lobbyists or legislative employees could report harassment claims to a tip line monitored by the Legislative Ethics Commission. The commission then would’ve had an expedited timeline to review the complaint.

State Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, was one of the sponsors of the bill. “What this bill does, very simply, is create a clear pathway for reporting any complaints of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination for a professional, expedited review,” she said.

We thought this was a needed piece of legislation after what happened in 2017. It gives protection to those who are in fear of speaking up against people in positions of power.

The House apparently felt the same way, as it passed the bill 99-0. It then headed to the Senate, where we were hopeful it would be discussed and easily passed in that chamber. Unfortunately, we were wrong. The bill vanished in the Senate. Following House passage, Senate President Robert Stivers said he wasn’t familiar with the bill and didn’t weigh in on its chances in the Senate.

We find it really hard to believe that as president of the state Senate, Stivers was unaware of a bill regarding a matter that brought so much unwanted attention to our state.

His chamber didn’t even vote on this most important piece of legislation. This really is a slap in the face to the woman who was involved in this sexual harassment settlement and to other women in Frankfort who have been victims of sexual harassment but were afraid to go public.

What kind of message does this send to women and men working in Frankfort who could be victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers in the future?

A very negative one, in our opinion.

All legislators have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that those they work with and those who work for them are able to work in a safe environment where sexual harassment won’t be tolerated.

The Senate really dropped the ball here, and that is a real shame. We commend the House for doing the right thing and voting the right way. We hope that in next year’s legislative session this bill is reintroduced and that the Senate does the right thing by voting it into law.

It’s absolutely the right thing to do.

Online: www.bgdailynews.com

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April 5

The Daily Independent, on vaccinations and public health:

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported this week a Kentucky judge has ruled in favor of a public health agency and against an unvaccinated teenager who sued in an effort to return to his school’s basketball team.

This appears to be the correct decision under the circumstances but we understand why people would disagree. Before we go any further, we want to say right up front we respect everyone’s opinion, and we understand some will most certainly disagree with us. We respect these opinions especially in light of the fact religious faith played a role in the family of the student deciding not to get a vaccine.

According to the Enquirer, Jerome Kunkel is a senior student at Assumption Academy in Boone County. There is normally a vaccine exemption at the school for religious beliefs, as there should be. However, this has gotten complicated because there has been an outbreak of chickenpox at the school. More than 30 kids have been impacted. Thus the school apparently felt the need to eliminate the waiver under these circumstances.

The story says:

Kunkel’s attorney, Christopher Wiest, argued in court that a ban on unvaccinated students would not be effective in stopping the spread of chickenpox, because most of the students attend mass together.

Wiest told the paper that over two dozen other unvaccinated students are out of school and have joined Kunkel’s legal push.

However, the problem here — again — is that there was an outbreak. And, a warning state form that the Kunkels signed to get Jerome exempted from vaccines on religious grounds according to the Enquirer contains the warning “This person may be subject to exclusion from school, group facilities or other programs if the local and/or state public health authority advises exclusion as a disease control measure.”

Vaccines are a matter of public health. Disease prevention is a matter of public health. We also respect faith-based decisions not to get vaccines. When others, however, are put at risk society and the public’s interests are prioritized from a public health perspective.

Online: www.dailyindependent.com

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April 6

The News-Enterprise, on inclusion, diversity and kindness:

When Fred Gross took the stage last month for A Night of Remembrance and Understanding at The State Theater in Elizabethtown, he did so with a smile.

It was a genuine smile. One that told the audience there to hear him that he was happy to see them. And although he didn’t know them, the smile radiated a love he holds for them.

The love the 82-year-old Jewish Louisville resident emitted was a stark contrast from some of the horrors he experienced as a child in Nazi-occupied France in the late 1930s and early ’40s.

At age 3, his family fled Belgium as it was being invaded by Adolph Hitler’s army. The family survived narrow misses to escape over the course of a few years as they traversed France’s outer border looking for a place to take refuge, to hide and to try and live.

He told the audience of his mother laying on top of him while planes dropped bombs around them and the nightmares that followed. He told of trauma he experienced from abuse at the hands of a foster family while he was separated from his parents. He shared how his father’s gambling addiction prevented the family from being able to afford a car, so their journey was made mostly on foot.

But he also described how luck and kindness saved the family from capture on more than one occasion. That without the help from Catholic nuns, a village mayor, a sympathetic farmer and a friendly Italian, he and his family wouldn’t have survived.

Gross also shared family photos from the time they were on the run. Photos that his mother must have valued so much that with each move, with each escape, she took them with her.

His story was raw. It was honest. It was painful. It was inspiring. It was filled with love and hope. It was a story that needed to be shared, needed to be heard.

And thanks to the Marvin and Joyce Benjamin Fund of Central Kentucky Community Foundation, the community was able to hear Gross’ story and learn from his experiences.

Through a $2 million gift the Benjamins left, the fund strives to foster kindness, understanding and inclusiveness among the diverse people who call our community home. The purpose of the fund is to fight hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism.

Gross’ story was filled with examples of how regular people can do something - even if it seems small - to fight oppression and hatred. It was the perfect message for what the Benjamins desired for the community.

And this community was fortunate to have them call it home. The couple moved here in the 1950s and owned and operated Melody Music in Elizabethtown for decades. Had they chosen to live anywhere else, had they had passion for another community, the more than 450 people who heard and were touched by Gross’ words would not have had that experience.

The fund also paid for the presentation of Never Again: Murals of the Holocaust, a six-week exhibit at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. Not only did the fund bring in the murals to be on exhibit, but it also provided the necessary money for Hardin County and Elizabethtown Independent school districts’ students to experience them and for curriculum to be provided for their teachers.

Just like the murals and Gross’ stories, the Benjamins’ legacy also is inspirational.

Through this one couple’s gift to the community in the form of an endowment fund at Central Kentucky Community Foundation, their message of inclusion, diversity and kindness can live forever.

Online: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com