Hearing Tomorrow on Bill to Criminalize Teaching of “Controversial” Materials

Senate Bill 56 which was passed by the Senate last year has been resurrected in the House Judiciary Committee. It will have a hearing tomorrow at 3:30.

This is the bill that removes the “affirmative defense” from teachers.

Let’s say a parent files a complaint that you taught pornography by having your students read The Scarlet Letter in your literature class or you showed a photo of Michelangelo’s David in your art history class. Under current law you can use the affirmative defense of the literary, artistic, or educational value of the materials. This bill essentially says the complainer is right.

While we doubt that there would be many teachers dragged before grand juries, the bill would cause school districts and teachers to self-censor materials. If one has a student in class whose parent is likely to disapprove of a book, one will no longer teach that book.

This is a terrible policy that jeopardizes the quality of education in every building. It would apply to public and private school teachers in Kansas.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to ask the members of the committee to reject this censorship bill and protect the integrity of instructional programs. Click here to access a roster of committee members with links to their legislative email addresses.

Click here to read the bill. Note that it removes the defense from K-12 teachers but retains it for post-secondary instructors.

House Ed Hears Bill Establish Review Panel for Capital Improvement State Aid

The House Education Committee held the first of three hearings on the so-call “Bradford Bills.” The first was HB 2486 which establishes a review board for determining if a district’s building project will be eligible for state aid, a key component of the equity provisions in school finance.

The proponents of the bill were Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and Walt Chappell. Chappell was the most outrageous, asserting that the quality of facilities has no impact on student learning. In fact, the opposite has been shown repeatedly in research.

While KASB appeared as neutral on the bill, KNEA, Kansas Families for Education, Galena Superintendent Brian Smith, Topeka Superintendent Julie Ford, USD 497 School Board VP Marcel Harmon, Bonner Springs school board member Bonnie Welicky, and Kansas PTA President Denise Sultz all provided testimony against the bill.

KNEA argued that facilities do have an impact on student achievement as well as teacher recruitment and retention. While we have an appreciation for the Legislature’s frustration with the unpredictability of the dollars necessary to fund capital improvement state aid, it would be better to makes changes as part of the new school finance system to be written later.

Tomorrow they will hear HB 2457, the radical expansion of the tuition tax credit program and Wednesday will be HB 2504, the mandatory consolidation bill.

Senate Ed Committee Learns About Product for Protecting Students from Shooters

The Senate Education Committee listened to a presentation by the Overland Park based SafeDefend company.  According to SafeDefend’s promotional literature, “SafeDefend enhances your current school safety plan and any system or process currently in place. With the swipe of a finger [and about $500 per box].”  According to the founder and his staff, meetings with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies indicate that current response plans for dealing with a crisis such as an active shooter are not effective.  SafeDefend is a locked ‘safe box’ which could be placed in a classroom or other school room and is activated by a finger print scanner.

The SafeDefend box is interconnected and upon activation by authorized personnel, the box notifies a number of agencies but also sets off a variety of visual and audible alerts that an emergency is ongoing on campus.  Presenters noted that their research indicates that a majority of active shooter situations come from students who are carrying firearms to school rather than from outside the building.  Thus, school lockdown protocols are ineffective in these situations according to SafeDefend.  Additionally, SafeDefend indicated that communities can’t expect timely response by ambulances or law enforcement in order to mitigate active shooter emergencies or the resulting physical trauma inflicted.  According to SafeDefend, the box contains tools and supplies to break windows for escape and to “stop the bleeding” until emergency responders arrive.

SafeDefend is being used in some schools and other municipal buildings which are noted on the SafeDefend website.  SafeDefend representatives report that their product is an effective insurance policy and gives faculty, staff and parents peace of mind.  Following their presentation, Chairman Abrams stated that their presentation before the committee was not to be interpreted as an endorsement of their product.  The meeting adjourned with no other discussion or action.