By: KNEA President, Sherri Schwanz

I would like to take a moment to share my thoughts with you, my fellow education colleagues, about how the proposed House Substitute for Senate Bill 233 could affect your classroom, you, and the well-being of your students. This bill contains the contents of House Bill 2791 but was inserted into a Senate Bill to usurp the traditional legislative process.

This is commonly referred to as a “gut and go,” and is used to fast track a bill. It passed the House, but the Senate refused the House amendments and sent it to a conference committee, where they will negotiate the changes. We are waiting for notification of the conference committee meeting.

It’s important to note that, like many bills we see today, this legislation goes beyond what its supporters claim. It could potentially infringe upon your rights as an educator as well as the rights of private citizens.

The sales pitch, which we often hear with bills like this one, is “it will protect children.” However, in reality, the bill may harm students and educators, and trample local control. As a result, it will almost certainly be challenged in court. But, in the meantime, what will happen to the people who will be directly harmed by this bill?

In a nutshell, this bill prohibits the use of state funds to promote or advocate for gender-affirming care for children who “perceive” their gender as different than that which conforms to the anatomical sex characteristics present at birth. Let’s put aside for a moment the wealth of research indicating that gender and sex are different and can present complexities that millions of families confront. While not plainly written in the text of the bill, there is serious concern that this law could potentially:

  • Strip healthcare providers of their licenses;
  • Force schools and public libraries to ban any literature or media of any kind that even acknowledges this issue;
  • Eliminates avenues of support and care for potentially suicidal children; and/or
  • Places educators at every level under the threat of violation of law and termination, if they offer even encouragement in support of any student (including their own children) who may be facing this daunting issue.

Imagine a parent who sends their son to school wearing his favorite pink t-shirt inspired by the popular Barbie movie. Under the proposed H Sub for SB 233, it could be interpreted that the school is obligated to remove the child from class and send him home to change into clothes that conform to his birth sex. Who decides what are “boy clothes” and what are “girl clothes” is absent from this bill.

Additionally, we question whether a teacher who has a book in their classroom library that includes a minor character acknowledging gender dysphoria or gender-affirming care could be considered to have violated this proposed law, leading to termination and potentially even losing their professional license. We question if a child confides in a school guidance counselor about their gender and identity concerns, the counselor must turn them away from any support, otherwise, they risk violating this proposed law. Or, if a lawfully elected school board member brings up the topic for discussion at a monthly public school board meeting, could they be accused of violating this law and, in turn, be subjected to a recall?

This isn’t about gender-affirming care, this is about the rights of some Kansas citizens to live lawfully and freely. And, perhaps the most alarming question is this: if we permit extremist lawmakers to strip certain people of their lawful rights in this case, whose rights are next to go? 

Please be aware the KNEA was the only education association to submit testimony in opposition to HB 2791 – the contents of H Sub for SB 233. We are continuing to monitor this bill. Once we are notified of conference committee movement, we will alert you to act.