By Shelby Horton
Senate Bill No. 56 has been passed by the Kansas Senate and is now in the House of Representatives, leaving many teachers fearing for their jobs.
The bill has caused concern for teachers, in classes from kindergarten through high school, because it would criminalize certain aspects of education.
The purpose of this bill is to monitor and punish teachers who promote or provide “harmful” materials to minors.
This bill was created because of an incident that occurred at Hocker Grave Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas, in 2014.
A sex education instructor provided a poster that described how adults express sexual feelings.
It contained a list such as “hugging,” “grinding,” and “anal sex.”
That incident sparked the bill that is backed by Kansas Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, who also seeks to criminalize surrogate parenting.
The new law, if passed, would create a misdemeanor criminal charge and include fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail if a teacher was convicted of it.
“Local standards of decency” would determine who is charged and convicted, said Sen. Terry Bruce, who voted for the bill.
The bill puts many school subjects at risk, such as English.
Conservative watchdog groups’ lists of banned books could outlaw literary classics such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Great Gatsby,” “1984,” “The Lord of the Flies,” and even the “Harry Potter” book series.
The Kansas bill could require art history teachers to censor some of Michelangelo’s great works because they contain nudity.
Science teachers worry that teaching evolution could become a crime.
“It’s insane. Fascist. Reminds me of something out of 1930’s Germany,” said Scott Brown, an art teacher at HCC. “Who’s going to decide where these lines are drawn for what is ‘harmful?’”
According to the U.S Sexual Information and Education Council, Kansas sex education curriculum teaches complete abstinence until marriage — which leads to a higher chance of minors having sex early.
Rep. Steven Becker, a retired district court judge, will not be supporting this bill.
Becker said the legislature should not dictate, mandate or control school curriculum.
“It will suppress educational creativity,” Becker said.
“Teachers should be concerned. Perhaps the motive for this bill was to instill fear in teachers.”