Government & Politics

Kansas Senate passes bill easing prosecution of teachers for distributing ‘harmful material’

A sex education session at Liberty High School
A sex education session at Liberty High School The KC Star

A bill making it easier to prosecute teachers and school administrators for distributing materials deemed harmful to minors passed the Kansas Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 56, which passed 26-14, removes a provision from current statute that protects schools against such prosecution. It keeps the protection in place for universities, museums and libraries.

Opponents say the bill would allow teachers to be prosecuted for teaching controversial works of literature or about human biology.

Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat and a former school administrator, said that as a lifelong educator, he could not support the bill, which he viewed as having a chilling effect on teachers.

But supporters said the bill is necessary to ensure kids are protected from pornography at school and that teachers would not be prosecuted for teaching works of literary or scientific value.

Sen. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, said that in society, it’s illegal for a person to show children pornography and that parents should be able to expect that same protection when kids are at school.

Teachers question who would make the determination about what’s pornography. Earlier in the week, Rep. Joseph Scapa, a Wichita Republican, called a book by Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize-winning author, pornographic.

Democrats had planned to fight the bill Tuesday when it was up for debate, but because of confusion and the absence of a few key members from the Senate chamber, – one of whom was in the bathroom – no Democrat spoke against the bill or posed questions about when it could be amended.

Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, made light of this during debate on another bill on Wednesday and asked the Democrats whether they needed to clear the bathrooms before the debate could proceed.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.