Politics & Government

Kansas Senate approves teacher-prosecution bill

Andover Central High School students work on an assignment in the AP Language Arts class. A bill passed in the Kansas Senate would allow prosecution of teachers and administrators for distributing “harmful materials” to students. (Feb. 11, 2015)
Andover Central High School students work on an assignment in the AP Language Arts class. A bill passed in the Kansas Senate would allow prosecution of teachers and administrators for distributing “harmful materials” to students. (Feb. 11, 2015) File photo

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, D-Manhattan, 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, R-Altoona, 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, R-Wichita, 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, no Democrat spoke against the bill or posed questions when it could be amended.

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

How they voted

Here’s how south-central Kansas lawmakers voted on SB 56. It passed 26-14.

Republicans voting yes: Les Donovan, Mike Petersen and Susan Wagle, Wichita; Steve Abrams, Arkansas City; Terry Bruce, Hutchinson; Dan Kerschen, Garden Plain; Forrest Knox, Altoona; Ty Masterson, Andover; Richard Wilborn, McPherson

Democrats voting no: Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Wichita

Republicans voting no: Michael O’Donnell, Wichita; Carolyn McGinn, Sedgwick

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