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Kansas Lawmaker Wants to Jail Teachers for Exposing Students to 'Harmful Material'

February 9, 2015 in Blogs

By Deb Hipp, Courthouse News

Examples of harmful material, include nudity and sex.

  (CN) – Public schoolteachers in Kansas could be jailed for teaching “harmful material,” and university professors would be banned from signing op-ed letters with their titles when writing about public officials, if two new bills become law.

      Senate Bill 56 , introduced on Jan. 22 by state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, would amend Kansas' public morals statute by deleting an exemption that protects K-12 public, private and parochial schoolteachers from being prosecuted for presenting material deemed harmful to minors.

     According to the bill, “harmful material” includes depictions of nudity, sexual conduct, homosexuality, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse “in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community with respect to what is suitable for minors.”

     Teachers could be charged with a class B misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail if teaching materials contain depictions that a “reasonable person” would find to lack “serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors.”

     Pilcher-Cook said she sponsored S.B. 56 in response to parental outrage over a poster affixed to a Shawnee Mission middle school door last year that asked the question: “How do people express their sexual feelings?” and listed answers such as “hugging, kissing, saying 'I like you' and talking” along with other possibilities: “oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, vaginal intercourse, grinding, and touching each other's genitals.”

     ”Pornography and obscene materials are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, and it is all too common to hear of cases where children are not being protected from the harm it inflicts,” Pilcher-Cook told the Topeka Capital Journal.

     Opponents of the bill say it is unconstitutionally broad and could be misused.

     ”Senate Bill 56 could criminalize teachers simply for distributing handouts, displaying posters or sharing educational information,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas, told the Kansas City Star.

     ”If a teacher is afraid that they're going to be charged and convicted of a misdemeanor just for doing their job, they're going to be a lot less likely to share any information …read more


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