Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catastrophic Bullying Compliance issues in Kentucky – School Districts have no knowledge of existing Kentucky laws – The Kentucky Department of Education is to blame

The Kentucky Equality Federation is appalled at the lack of administrative education provided by the Kentucky Department of Education on bullying-related topics.

In Clay, Grayson, Jefferson, Kenton, Lincoln, Pulaski, Whitley, and several other counties, we have received alarming reports from guidance counselors, principals, and other school district staff that they have received no briefings or information about complying with years-old Kentucky regulations regarding bullying in public schools. This lack of information is leading to a lack of enforcement of laws that are already in effect.

"These laws were written to protect students," said Kentucky Equality Federation President Joshua Koch. "We hear cries for more legislation from the public, but we know there are laws in effect already. This is an insult to the visionary legislators who have already passed excellent laws to protect Kentucky's children.

“When we confront these local school districts about their lack of enforcement, we are finding an epidemic of knowledge," Koch said. "These districts don't even know Kentucky has these laws. We have laws and continuing education requirements for a reason. They are there to allow and encourage administrative communication, but that only works when the Department of Education understands the law and communicates it to the 120 counties and their school districts. The Kentucky Department of Education should have ensured all school districts in Kentucky enforced existing school bullying laws when the legislation was passed and especially after the first suicide.

"It does no good to lobby for new school bullying legislation when principals and guidance counselors are not ever aware of existing laws. Frankfort can pass new laws indefinitely, but without enforcement and education regarding Kentucky’s existing laws, adding additional laws to the books if futile. Our law has received an A++ rating by a national bullying watchdog group, something we made public and the Family Foundation of Kentucky used to stop new legislation this year. The problem is not a lack of applicable laws. The fundamental crisis is that no one in the education administration in Kentucky seems to know laws exist to confront school bullying. This is a tragedy that is costing lives and damage, and it has already been addressed in detail by the legislature. There is simply no excuse for this negligence. Under existing Kentucky law, all school bullying must be submitted in writing to the principal who must then forward the complaints to the County Attorney for investigation. One County Attorney in Southern Kentucky informed us that so many new laws are passed each year, they struggle to keep-up."

"In recent years, bullying in schools has gotten out of control," stated Attorney Jillian Hall, Kentucky Equality Foundation’s Legal Director. "The legislature has done their part by enacting laws to protect the students, now the Department of Education must accept responsibility and educate teachers and staff on how to put these laws into practice and protect the victims of this behavior. Kentucky Equality Federation is ready to take legal action to ensure this happens. Most of the parents involved want the school districts and the Commonwealth to be sued for damages. However, Kentucky Equality Federation would rather have the cooperation of the Kentucky Department of Education in educating school districts in all 120 Kentucky counties."

Kentucky Equality Federation requests assistance from the Kentucky Department of Education in informing school districts in the Commonwealth about the applicable sections of KRS, especially sections 158 and 525, and any other statutory or administrative laws applicable to anti-bullying reporting and enforcement. The Department of Education has a responsibility to make school districts aware of their duties and authority to confront this problem. Kentucky Equality Federation has started this process in most Eastern, Northern, Southern, Southeastern, and Western Kentucky school districts. Clay and Grayson counties are perhaps the worst; one superintendent closed a meeting when a parent wanted to discuss school bulling after the superintendent received a warning from Kentucky Equality Federation, another completely refused to cooperate though the principals wanted the information and a school bullying impact presentation from Kentucky Equality Federation.

"It is irresponsible of Kentucky's Department of Education to not empower their administrators and instructors with the knowledge and processes affiliated with in-school harassment or bullying,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Chairman of the Board Brandon Combs. “This same information should also be extended to parents as out-of-school bullying, or harassment, is a criminal offense in the commonwealth of Kentucky. What's worse is the administrative regulation regarding harassment in school has been on the books and available for enforcement for years. This is not an issue where the Department of Education has lacked sufficient time to pass along the information to its personnel. Only when administrators, teachers, and parents are armed with the knowledge and empowered to act will the issue of school bullying in Kentucky finally be put to rest."

This has been an ongoing issue. Kentucky Equality Federation’s former president, Jordan Palmer, publicly warned three school districts about their non-compliance with the law in March (http://community.kyequality.org/2012/03/kentucky-equality-federation-warns.html).

Kentucky Equality Federation founder and board member Jordan Palmer, still on the mend, stated: "Kentucky Equality Federation reiterates that it seeks the assistance of the Department of Education and Kentucky Secretary of Education Joseph U. Meyer in making presentations to these schools and educating the student body for the coming school year. Though additional legislation may be needed to protect youth and prevent suicides, until we discover and resolve the government communications breakdown with existing legislation, we cannot endorse new legislation that could fall by the wayside as "The Golden Rule Act of 1998" has."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Brandon Combs Named Board Chair of Kentucky Equality Federation

By: Kathy Johnson

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 20, 2012) ― Brandon Combs, telecommunications supervisor for the University of Kentucky Police Department, has been named chairman of the board of the Kentucky Equality Federation, Kentucky’s largest all-volunteer grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) civil rights and advocacy organization for both social and political equality.

"Working in advocacy, especially in the LGBTI community, has been a consideration of mine for many years," Combs said. "The Kentucky Equality Federation Board of Directors was a perfect fit, as it combines a strong advocacy voice and goal of equality in all aspects within the Commonwealth.”

Combs is one of 10 members who serve on the board, and was elected chairman by his fellow members.

"I have personally welcomed Mr. Combs to the organization," said Jordan Palmer, immediate past president and founder of the organization. "I believe he will provide the leadership needed in my absence and beyond."

The current president, Joshua Koch, welcomed the new board members saying, "We are constantly moving forward, and this election is vital to shaping our strategy going forward. This team's recent sacrifices and capacity to seize the initiative portends great things for Kentucky Equality Federation and the Kentucky equality movement."

Read more: http://uknow.uky.edu/content/brandon-combs-named-board-chair-kentucky-equality-federation

Subscribe to http://uknow.uky.edu

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kentucky Equality Federation responds to community assaults in Louisville

Screen Capture from Wave3 News
Kentucky Equality Federation, a statewide organization whose former president, Jordan Palmer, successfully lobbied the federal government into prosecuting the first federal hate crime in U.S. history, condemns the violent attack on several youths on Taylor Boulevard in Louisville, KY.

Kentucky Equality Federation has made contact with both families to offer mental health services, legal services, or spiritual services after the attack.

These assaults represent the root of the equality fight in Kentucky. This assault, if motivated by the victim's sexuality as determined by police, would be classified as a hate crime and should be treated as such," stated Kentucky Equality Federation Chairman of the Board Brandon Combs. "Those who perpetrate crimes of hate will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The LGBTI community should be free of persecution based upon their sexual orientation or identity. The Kentucky Equality Federation and its allies continue to work tirelessly towards this goal in the Commonwealth."

"Obviously the people who did this have no fear of being prosecuted. We urge the Louisville Metro Police Department to throw every resource into finding those responsible, it is impossible to believe no forensic evidence was left at the scene of the crime. We will be monitoring the progress of this case closely. It is important to remember that discrimination does not always come in the form of employment, housing or public accommodation, it too often takes the form of a violent attack on a child, teenager, or adult. The Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to be a resource for all individuals across the Bluegrass who are discriminated against, bullied or otherwise mistreated due to their LGBTI status," stated Louisville based Kentucky Equality Federation Regional Director Jeff Johnson.

Kentucky Equality Federation acts as public advocate for Kentucky's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex population. Because of the Commonwealth's budget cuts, most Commonwealth's Attorneys and County Attorneys in Kentucky no longer have public advocates. Even if they do, Kentucky Equality Federation’s Public Advocate Service acts as public advocate and spokesperson for Kentucky's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex citizens who have been discriminated against, bullied at educational or work facilities, or suffered a hate crime as define by the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the United States of America.

"We are shocked and appalled that these attacks continue. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. It is unthinkable that adults would randomly and violently attack LGBTI youths who bothered no one. We must aid these families in healing and in obtaining justice," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Joshua Koch.

"The physical pain of such an assault is only the beginning of the pain, usually followed by the loss of a feeling of safety and security," stated Louisville based Assistant Central Kentucky Regional Director Darren Morgen. "In this case additional psychological pain must be dealt with because the assault was motivated by hate based on her natural sexual disposition. These crimes must be aggressively pursed to ensure others do not fall victim."

The full resources of Kentucky Equality Federation are available to the teenagers involved.

In addition to the two (2) Southeastern Kentucky hate crime cases, Kentucky Equality Federation is also engaged in one (1) hate crime in Eastern Kentucky and two (2) in Western Kentucky.

Video:  Wave3 News

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kentucky Equality Federation welcomes new Board leadership and attorney Jillian Hall

Kentucky Equality Federation President Joshua Koch extends a welcome to Kentucky Equality Federation's new Board members, in addition to new Board leadership.

President Koch also welcomed attorney Jillian Hall as Kentucky Equality Federation's Legal Director and its Allies Community Outreach Director.

"We are absolutely excited at the new group of leaders who have risen to the challenge," Koch said. "We are constantly moving forward, and this election is vital to shaping our strategy going forward. This team's recent sacrifices and capacity to seize the initiative portends great things for Kentucky Equality Federation and the Kentucky equality movement."

This brings Kentucky Equality Federation's total Board members to its maximum of ten (10) per new Bylaws approved by the official membership.

New Board members and Board leadership include:

  • Brandon Combs, M.S., Chairman of the Board (Telecommunications Supervisor for the University of Kentucky Police Department)
  • Gary Fowler, Psy.D., Vice Chairman of the Board (former chair of the Governor’s HIV/AIDS Planning Committee, the Kentucky Advocate and a Board member for the Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC), and the former president of the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Action Group, a Kentucky Equality Federation member organization)
  • Fran Everage, Secretary of the Corporation
  • Dean Byrd, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Corporation
  • Minister Edith Baker, Ph.D.
  • Jody Gregory
  • Dale Cochran

All previous Board members remain part of the Board of Directors per Kentucky Equality Federation's rotating Board election schedule, including founder Jordan Palmer.

Kentucky Equality Federation's Interim Committee for Official Membership did retire several Board members prior to new elections being held. Official membership typically meets once a year to elect the Board of Directors and the President. Between these times the interim committee handles most items with unlimited authority.

The Board elects its own non-executive Chair (sometimes legally referred to as the Board President), Treasurer, Secretary of the Corporation, and other Board leadership.

Administration consists of the president, officers appointed by the president, all regional directors, outreach directors, and all other volunteers and interns appointed by the president as the chief executive officer of Kentucky Equality Federation and its affiliates.

Former Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer, the Board of Directors, and Membership made sweeping changes several years ago to get Board members out of day-to-day operations and make the Board an oversight and legislative body for Kentucky Equality Federation and its affiliates. This included extensive changes to Bylaws which only official membership or the Interim Committee for Official Membership may change.

At the time, former Chairman Richard T. Jones and Secretary Dean Byrd also called the changes necessary.

Former President Jordan Palmer called the changes "a must" to make the Board of Directors "a truly independent and oversight board; management can justify any action so long as management also makes the sum of board members. Without an independent body supervising management, management has complete authority to run amok without answering to anyone. Without an independent Board you effectively have a "clique," that can do or say anything without consequences. A key attribute of an effective board is that it is comprised of a majority of independent outsiders; a board with a majority of insiders is often viewed as being stacked with sycophants, especially in cases where the executive and the chair are the same person."

In 2011 Palmer also pointed out: "Most non-profits and private companies now have or are seeking independent boards. Most now require that a minimum of two-thirds be independent. Having a chair and a president who are one in the same is toxic to any corporation, non-profit or for-profit. I am proud of the changes we have instituted at Kentucky Equality Federation and our affiliates."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kentucky Equality Federation responds to the return of the Lexington homophobic billboard. Lexington's Billboard Controversy Continues.

The 1st Billboard
The 1st Billboard
The Kentucky Equality Federation has been informed by concerned citizens in Lexington that the Bluegrass Church of Christ has reinstalled their billboard, which compares homosexuality to abortion, then condemns both.

"The billboard in question was the center of a nationwide firestorm, which unfairly turned Lexington and Kentucky into a brief national laughingstock," said Kentucky Equality Federation President Joshua Koch. "While Kentucky Equality Federation supports the church's right to free speech, this speech is embarrassing Lexington and the community, as well as needlessly trying to drive a wedge between well- meaning people.

According to a recent article in Lexington’s Herald-Leader newspaper, the amount spent on the initial sign, rental, and the replacement is about $9,100.00 so far," Koch continued. "Jesus once said, 'And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.'

I can't help but wonder how many cups of water, shelters for the needy, or food for the hungry could have been obtained for $9100. It's sad that driving people away from God is more important to this church. Apparently, the Bluegrass Church of Christ and Christ Himself have very different priorities.

We must stand firmly for the right of each individual to pursue their happiness, their life, and their liberty, not just because our republic is based on that principle, but because that is the principle on which God, the Bible, and Christianity is established."

Minister Edith Maker, Ph.D. Kentucky Equality Federation's Religious Communities Outreach Director also commented on the issue.

"In a world of so many uncertainties, it is both relieving and refreshing to know that the God of the Bible is redeeming and restoring," Minister Baker said. "He is a God of Love, who revealed himself clearly through Jesus when He admonished each of us to love one another. While God and the Bible have been used to condemn the science of planet rotation (Galileo 1500s), mental illness as an evil spirit (through the 1950s), Black people has having no soul (1900s), left-handed people as being in league with the devil (through the 1950s), and forbidding marriage between blacks and whites (as late as 1967), we have come to realize these are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of God and the Bible.

Unfortunately, these misrepresentations of God and the Bible have been forged as a mechanism for control. Today, many are repeating these same false ideologies in their opposition to same-sex relationships. Just as blacks have been liberated to worship God as well as the mentally ill, left-handed people and women, homosexuals must also be liberated by the church to pursue their relationship and completeness in Christ."

Jordan Palmer, the founder and previous president of Kentucky Equality Federation who is still recovering, also commented for the first time since he stepped down for health reasons as previously reported.

"I am outraged by selfish Churches who, in the name of the Creator spread hatred," Palmer said. "I did a radio show about this years ago: http://news.fayetteville.net/articles/173/1/Is-Homosexuality-Against- God039s-Law/Page1.html.

I remind them the Bluegrass Church of Christ that The Old Covenant also states that you may sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7), and it is a sin to have sexual relations with your wife during her monthly menstrual cycle.

Everyone is also morally obligated according to Exodus to kill their neighbors for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), and I may not approach the alter of God without perfect vision (Leviticus 21:20), it is a sin for men to trim the hair around their temples and their beard (Leviticus 19:27), and football must should be outlawed since toughing the skin of a dead pig makes you unclean. Also, it is a sin for anyone to plant different seeds in the same garden or to wear garments made of two separate materials (Leviticus 19:19).

I am sick of organized religion taking curtain passages and trying to divide a loving community. Forget the Church, get to know God yourself, and Jesus in the New Covenant when he died for our sins.

Fortunately, we do not follow the passages I have just outlined (and we urge you not to) because Jesus taught us differently. I apologize if I offend anyone for my religious beliefs, but I am sick of people using the Creator to spread hate and fear to advance their own selfish agendas. It is also not my intention to offend the Jewish community in any capacity."

Activist Jordan Palmer remains on the Board of Directors.

Jeff Johnson, Kentucky Equality Federation's Central Kentucky Regional Director also commented on the issue: "While I would strongly defend the right of this church to purchase billboard space to promote their beliefs, I do believe it is important that we stand publicly against the message delivered.

I see this billboard as an attempt to incite hatred and legitimize discrimination by using an umbrella of 'selective morality.' The primary message delivered by the Bluegrass Church of Christ is one of judgment and it is in direct contradiction of Christ's words.

This is no more than a publicity stunt devised to shame a segment of the community into silence and offer a war cry to another segment with a political agenda to promote. In the grand scheme of things, I believe though unpleasant and offensive, it also serves as a reminder the entire community that discrimination exists, even in Lexington, and the fight for basic Civil Rights is ongoing."

SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT: "This press release is especially noteworthy because it is a collaborative effort between the Office of the President, the Central Kentucky Regional Director, and the Religious Communities Outreach Director. Additionally, it is also the first official comment made by our founder and past president, Jordan Palmer, who is still recovering. That the issue has inspired him to speak publicly on the matter illustrates its gravity," Joshua Koch