2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. tested before the US House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Washington, DC, on May 19.
The committee asked Carver to testify during the hearing, “Free Speech Under Attack (Part II): Curriculum Sabotage and Classroom Censorship,” which was called to examine ongoing efforts to prohibit discussion in K-12 classrooms about American history, race and LGBTQ+ issues .
Carver received the opportunity to serve a semester-long sabbatical with the Kentucky Department of Education as the Kentucky Teacher of the Year. He has spent the past several months advocating for historically underserved groups and working to ensure all students feel safe in schools.
Carver told committee members that as a gay teacher, he is used to discrimination, but he has “weathered the storm” for 17 years because his presence saves lives.
“School is traumatic; LGBTQ students are trying to survive it,” he said. “They often don’t. Year after year, I receive suicidal goodbye texts from students at night. We’ve always saved them, but now I panic when my phone goes off after 10 (pm).”
Carver said 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide this year. Forty percent of transgender people attempt suicide, nearly all before age 25. He said “just one affirming adult cuts suicide attempts almost in half.”
Carver called for representatives to pass the Equality Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, and make discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal to protect all students from harassment.
“Strong public schools are an issue of national security and moral urgency, and political attacks are exacerbating teacher shortages, harming our democracy, and, above all, hurting our children,” he said. “We’re not asking for special treatment. We’re asking for fundamental human decency, dignity, freedom from fear and the same opportunity to thrive as everyone else.”
The hearing also included testimony from:
- Elle Caldon, a Texas student
- Claire Mengel, an Ohio student
- Krisha Ramani, a Michigan student
- Jennifer Cousins, a Florida parent
- Suzanne Nossel, chief executive officer of PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend free expression
- Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin professor of history at Yale University
- James Whitfield, former principal at Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas
- Virginia Gentles, the director of the Education Freedom Center at the Independent Women’s Forum
The full hearing can be viewed on the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform YouTube page, which oversees the subcommittee.