Willie Carver Jr. spent more than a decade working at Montgomery County High School, eventually earning Kentucky Teacher of the Year honors earlier in 2022. He won’t be up for the award, though. This year.
Carver, who is openly gay, said he quit for a job at the University of Kentucky, citing discrimination he would have faced working in the school system.
“It’s been a very difficult time to be a teacher,” Carver told the Courier Journal.
The “breaking point,” Carver said, came when a woman who attended several school board meetings earlier this year accused him of grooming children into the school club he advised, “Open Light,” a student-run LGBTQ group he says pushes for “systemic change” — members participate in cleanup projects, learn about the history of minority and LGBTQ communities, and work with mental health resources.
“The response from a select few people and kind of the intensity of that, especially coming to board meetings and doing things on social media, I think that was an added layer which makes it really hard to find happiness,” Carver says.
Carver taught English and French at Montgomery County High School, just east of Lexington and just over 100 miles from Louisville.
Carver does not know the woman who spoke out against him, he said. He does not know if she is related to a student or related to a teacher in the district.
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Other parents have contacted Montgomery County Schools asking the district to stop it from bringing any further charges against Carver and the students in the group, he said. Carver told district leaders the dispute was “a misinformation issue,” he said, which could have been used as an opportunity to educate and inform club critics about Open Light and its purpose.
Instead, according to Carver, the district told him to call the police if he feared for his safety and “something to the effect the school can’t step in every time someone says something. negative on social media about something happening at school”. he told the Courier Journal.
Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Matt Thompson did not comment on Carver’s statement except to say he had a positive impact on the district.
“Mr. Carver is a wonderful English and French teacher,” said Thompson. “We wish him good luck in his new venture.”
Carver expressed his beliefs and said the latest incident was not an isolated event. He testified before the Kentucky House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties last month about the importance of the Safer Schools Act and the Equality Act, according to the National Education Association, which requires schools to work to prevent bullying and harassment among students.
He wore glasses with rainbow frames as he addressed the audience, breaking down the discrimination he said he faced as a gay teacher and the lies and criticism that had been spread about him on social networks. LGBTQ students are also often under intense pressure, he said — “school is traumatic,” he said, also criticizing district leadership for their attitude.
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“I’m from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and I met the President of the United States. My school didn’t even mention him in an email,” he told the committee. “This invisibility extends to all newly politicized identities. Our administrators’ new directive is ‘nothing racial’. Parents are now demanding alternative work when perpetrators are black or LGBTQ. We are told to welcome them, but I cannot ethically erase black or queer voices.
Carver also spoke about Tyler Clay Morgan, a Kentucky music teacher who quit after the backlash he received for writing on a school board “You’re free to be yourself with me.” You matter,” along with an LGBTQ rainbow flag and a flag representing the transgender community drawn above the post. In a Facebook post, Carver said his students gave him a gift earlier this year — a piece of wood that displayed the same message Morgan wrote on the board.
In the meantime, Carver is moving on to higher education in neighboring UK Lexington. The university confirmed last week that Carver will take up the post of faculty adviser at Gatton College of Business and Economics beginning Friday, according to Michelle Lowe, director of marketing and communications.
“What really impresses me is how hard they work for first generation students – how hard and how much energy they put into making sure the UK is for all of Kentucky. This vision, I think, is going to set the tone for the state for the next decade,” Carver said.
“And I really want to be a part of that. I really want all of us to start thinking more about how we can leverage education to better help our students across Kentucky, because I think that’s a conversation we don’t have. we don’t have enough.”
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