Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says children were left vulnerable to harm, sexual assault and drugs as a result of public school closures throughout the state Friday to allow teachers and supporters to protest at the state’s Capitol.
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” the Republican governor told reporters Friday afternoon, according to CNN affiliate WDRB.
“I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
Bevin went on to say that “some were introduced to drugs for the first time because they were vulnerable and left alone.”
CNN has reached out to Bevin’s communications director. The governor’s press secretary did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment Saturday morning.
The Kentucky Education Association, which organized Friday’s rally, strongly opposes a bill to overhaul pensions that Bevin signed this week. Under the bill, new hires will have to enter a cash-balance plan, as opposed to a traditional pension, and teachers will be limited in the number of new sick days they can put toward their retirement.
Members of the teachers union also were critical of Bevin’s vetoes of budget and revenue bills, both of which the union said are crucial to funding public education.
On Friday, Bevin claimed to see people “hanging out” and “taking the day off” as teachers and school personnel gathered at the Capitol in Frankfort.
“I’m offended by the fact that people so cavalierly, and so flippantly, disregarded what’s truly best for children,” he said.
Bevin’s comments received bipartisan backlash in the state.
“There are no words for this other than, I am appalled!” President of the Kentucky Education Association Stephanie Winkler wrote on Twitter.
Republican state Sen. Max Wise, who serves as the chamber’s Education Committee chairman, also had harsh words for Bevin’s remarks.
“The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible,” Wise said Friday on Twitter. “I don’t agree with these comments & I find them repulsive.”