FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 1, 2016
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT Micah Kubic - Executive Director, ACLU of Kansas 913-490-4101 [email protected]
ACLU calls on committee to reject disturbing bill that criminalizes teachers for doing their jobs
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (February 1, 2016) – Tomorrow, the Judiciary Committee of the Kansas House of Representatives will hold a hearing to discuss SB 56, a bill that would criminalize teachers just for doing their jobs. SB 56 makes it a crime for public, private, and parochial teachers to share material vaguely and subjectively defined as “harmful to minors.” The bill passed the Kansas Senate last year, but after blistering local and national press coverage, widespread public criticism, and testimony from civil liberties organizations and educators about the chilling effect the legislation would have on Kansas schools, SB 56 had no further action in the House.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that this bill—one of the most outrageous and disturbing bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature during 2015—is even getting a hearing in the House this year. It should have become obvious to legislators during last year’s session that tossing teachers into jail just for teaching classic literature or health is a bad idea, hurts Kansas students, and raises serious constitutional issues to boot,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas.
Under SB 56’s vague and subjective definition of material “harmful to minors,” teachers could be convicted of a crime for sharing approved instructional materials related to classic literature, health, or virtually anything else – so long as someone, somewhere found the material offensive. If the bill is adopted, the mere act of distributing a school-approved, photocopied handout could result in a teacher spending six months in jail. Censorship of that kind violates the spirit of the Constitution, and would have an immediate, chilling, and censorial effect on Kansas schools. Fear of prison would intimidate teachers into foregoing instruction in classic literature that has been considered “controversial” (including Huck Finn and Shakespeare) or human sexuality education. Such an outcome would do a grave disservice to Kansas students.
“We call on the House Judiciary Committee to send this poorly-conceived attack on the freedom of expression and quality education to the legislative death it so richly deserves,” said Kubic.
The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, please contact Micah Kubic at 913-490-4101 or visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.