Kirk Penner, Nebraska’s vice president of the state board of education, has been criticizing Nebraska’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, Renee Jones, for her pro-drag show and LGBT activism in education.
Jones claims the criticism is “bullying,” and went to the Omaha World Herald to say so.
“I’m not sure why he’s doing this,” Jones said. “I don’t know what I did to him.”
But in a statement to The Lion, Penner says the Lincoln High School teacher’s allegations are “an attempt to deflect criticism away from her support for LGBTQ activism in education, and her personal endorsement of involving children in drag queen shows.”
Penner believes such views are deeply inconsistent with the title of Nebraska Teacher of the Year.
He has not only criticized Jones over the issue of drag queens, but also the inclusion of inappropriate books and materials in Nebraska’s public schools, and specifically by Jones herself.
Last March, Jones wrote a Facebook post about her excitement in attending a drag queen story hour at an education conference, saying, “[Y]ou better believe I’ll be buying a few new inclusive children’s books.”
Penner took issue with her remarks, believing Jones intended to use those new children’s books in her classroom.
Jones later claimed she intended those books to be for her own personal use.
To bolster his case Penner tweeted a screenshot of Jones’ post.
Hearing in Lincoln today on LB374 Parents’ Bill of Rights. Trying 2 protect our kids from radical agendas in some schools. Yes,we use taxpayer money 2 attend professional development encouraging childrens books of men dressed as women. @NEGOP @LCRPNE @dcrponline @NebraskaFreedom pic.twitter.com/7AyUIRUtvs
— Kirk Penner (@KirkPenner) February 1, 2023
He later followed that up with a copy of his letter to the Omaha World Herald, which had written an article on the controversy, noting the paper hadn’t published any of his responses.
On Friday of last week, Penner pointed out that Jones had liked tweets from Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic party chairwoman, which she made after Penner’s original Jan. 31 post.
Kleeb wrote: “I’d trust a drag queen over you [Penner] with my kids every day and twice on Sunday. Laughter, love, kindness…that’s what I’ve seen when drag queens read to kids in libraries. And what I hear from you is fear, hate and cruelty.”
Patti Gubbels, state board president, said in an email Monday to the Herald that she has no comment except that Penner’s tweets don’t represent the State Board of Education.
“He is speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the board,” she said.
The issue of gender ideology in public schools is deeply divisive in Nebraska, as it is in other states. However, despite overwhelming public support for keeping controversial social issues out of public education, Nebraska’s single-house Unicameral legislature system offers an outsized opportunity for a small minority to forestall legislation addressing the problem.
This year’s 90-day legislative session is nearly two-thirds over, and not a single piece of legislation has been sent to the governor’s office – the longest stretch in Nebraska state history.
Given threats of continued filibusters from left-wing senators, it is possible nothing will pass unless the body votes to suspend the rules.
Under Unicameral rules however, even the motion to suspend the rules can be filibustered.