Kansas Republicans want to Criminalize Lesson Materials Deemed to be “Harmful.”
The Republican-dominated Kansas Senate voiced its approval late February of a bill that would make it easier to prosecute teachers and school administrators who present lesson materials deemed to be “harmful.” Senate Bill 56 would allow misdemeanor charges to be filed against teachers who present materials depicting “nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse” that the “average adult person” believes “lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value.” There are protections in place for universities, museums, and libraries which would remain in place.
State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) told the Wichita Eagle the bill “protects children and the rights of parents,” and she dismissed concerns that the legislation could be used to criminally charge teachers who assign “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Opponents of the bill say it would have a serious impact on education because teachers would fear they could be prosecuted for teaching materials approved by local school boards.
“My first thought: Oh no! This again?” said Liesl Wright, an art teacher in Wichita, in an email. “I’d be in trouble. I was showing my high school art students charcoal drawings of nude people just today. I do it all the time. You know when the religious laws regarding art are more restrictive than the European Renaissance, you’ve gone too damn far!”
The bill came up for discussion when one of the Senate’s six Democrats had stepped out of the chamber and the Senate Minority Leader was at a meeting in his office leaving no opportunity for Democrats to voice opposition.
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