LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky parents could soon have a clear path on challenging any material or book in schools, which they believe are harmful for children.
The House Education Committee approved Senate Bill 5 on Monday. It now heads to the full House.
"The purpose of this bill is to address the issues that parents think may be obscene," said Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murray, who is the primary sponsor of the bill. He said some of the material that is defined as "harmful to minors," includes nudity, visual and written depictions of sexual acts.
Some parents testified at the hearing about concerns that some books they feel are inappropriate, even pornographic, are available on Kentucky public school shelves.
"What we are talking about is adult sexual content for children inside the public school building," said Miranda Stovall, a Louisville mother.
Stovall is a member of No Left Turn in Education's Kentucky. Last year, she tried to overturn a decision by leaders at Liberty High School and the Phoenix School of Discovery to keep copies of "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maia Kobabe in libraries at those schools.
"We need to get this sexual content away from our children in school buildings," Stovall said. Her challenge within JCPS took weeks and was ultimately denied leaving the book on school library shelves.
While many districts have a policy already, SB 5 would set statewide standard and time requirements for how districts should address complaints on books, instruction materials or school events that parents find harmful to minors.
The bill lists these three reasons as harmful to minors:
- Contain the exposure, in an obscene manner, of the unclothed or apparently unclothed human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks or the female breast, or visual depictions of sexual acts or simulations of sexual acts, or explicit written descriptions of sexual acts;
- Taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest in sex; or
- Is patently offensive to prevailing standards regarding what is suitable for minors.
The latter two reasons some find fault with, saying they're vague descriptions and could allow parents to argue books or material about the LGBTQ community in general.
"As written, this bill would open the flood gates and allow that to happen based on outdated and archaic views that people like me simply existing in the world is inherently sexual," Emma Curtis, a transgender woman testified Monday.
Critics also say the bill oversteps the role of educators.
Under SB 5, it would be the responsibility of the school principal to investigate a complaint. The principal would have seven business days to investigate the complaint and 10 business days to inform the parent of their decision to keep the materials or remove or restrict them.
If a parent is not happy with the principal’s decision, they may appeal to the school board. The board then has 30 days to address the appeal.
"At that point, if the parent still isn’t pleased with the process and outcome, then they can request that their child be restricted from or that material be restricted from their child," Howell said.
Sen. Howell said he knows the bill is a balancing act.
"The folks to the left of me and the folks to the right of me think it goes too far or not far enough. Which tells me we got it close to right," he said.
The bill currently has an emergency clause attached, which means it would take effect immediately, if passed. Lawmakers have written in a May 1 deadline for the Kentucky Department of Education to create the model complaint policy.
The House Education Committee approved SB 5 by a 16-4 vote. The bill now goes before the full House for consideration.
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