In news that we all wish was a prank on the reading public but sadly is not, an approved Kansas Senate bill allows teachers to be prosecuted for assigning "harmful" books or other works of literature. Conservative (shocking) senator Mary Pilcher-Cook proposed the bill, which would remove a provision of the current law that immunizes schoolteachers from prosecution, though it keeps in place protection for museums, universities, and libraries. The bill passed 26 to 14.
I know what you're wondering: So, what exactly is "harmful"? Thus far, it seems the brunt of the focus is on "pornographic" material. Though, as we've come to expect from the litany of other book banning stories, "pornography" seems to have a very broad and varied meaning. Senator Pilcher-Cook herself said that she got the idea to propose the bill after seeing a poster in a Kansas middle school back in 2013. According to ThinkProgress, the posted asked the question, "How do people express their sexual feelings?" The examples listed were kissing, talking, oral sex, "grinding" (LOL), intercourse, and sexual fantasy, among other things. But the posters caused major controversy in the school district, with some adults labeling them "X-rated" and "pornography," and they were taken down, despite them being part of a much broader, abstinence-plus curriculum in the school.
But now, with this bill, a teacher could be charged with a crime and sent to court for putting up this poster or for assigning a piece of literature that references such topics. Supporters of the bill, according to Salon, said that the bill is crucial to protect children from pornography when they're at school, and they said that no teacher would be prosecuted for teaching works of "literary or scientific value."
Oh. OK. So what kinds of books would teachers be prosecuted for? Assigning a 6th grade book report on Fifty Shades of Grey? Teaching Jenna Jameson's memoir How to Make Love Like a Porn Star in 7th grade U.S. history?
Well, Republican Kansas state representative Joseph Scapa cited books by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison as examples of "pornographic" literature. I'd laugh, but I'm too busy weeping.
Luckily, not everyone in Kansas agrees. Democrat Tom Hawk, who notably was formerly a school administrator, said that he "could not support the bill," as he believed it would have a "chilling" effect on teachers. Um, on the students, too.
But, apparently even the Democrats weren't too fixated on fighting the bill, as the debate was cut short when no one spoke up against the bill and key members of the Senate were too busy in the bathroom to return to the floor during the conversation. I am not even joking. I've sighed all the heavy sighs in the world.
This Kansas Senate bill sets a massively horrific precedent and it's sad how we have to count on people who don't seem to care to fight for teachers and the students they're educating.