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Kentucky House passes bill allowing parental input on school materials

The bill now heads to Governor Andy Beshear.
Credit: AP
Members of Lost River Elementary School staff greet students during the first day of school on Aug. 7, 2019, in Bowling Green, Ky. Kentucky lawmakers have given final passage to a bill designed to give parents a pathway to challenge school instructional materials they consider unfit for children. The measure cleared the House late Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (Bac Totrong/Daily News via AP, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky House has given final passage to a bill that's designed to give parents a pathway to challenge school instructional materials they consider unfit for children.

The bill — part of a push to boost parental input over school polices — would require Kentucky school districts to create a process to challenge instructional materials that parents deem "harmful" to children.

The Republican-dominated House voted 80-18 to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear after a lengthy debate Wednesday night.

Supporters said the measure aims to ensure the right for parental responses to books and other school materials containing explicit sexual content.

Opponents countered that the measure could lead to the banning of books and create added burdens for local school boards. Another lawmaker warned that it could spark future legislation taking aim at other types of instructional materials.

"How much curriculum will be stifled because of what you don't agree with in terms of what a history teacher is teaching, or what a high school English teacher is teaching?" said Rep. Derrick Graham, the top-ranking Democrat in the House.

Republican Rep. Russell Webber called it a "commonsense process" for parents, teachers and school administrators when concerns are raised about the content of school materials. He said those guidelines will benefit schoolchildren and downplayed the concerns from opponents.

"We are not talking about banning books in this bill," he said. "We are talking about protecting children in this commonwealth from examples of extreme sexual exposure to material, to events, to programs."

Under the measure, parents would submit a complaint to the school principal, who would decide whether the materials in dispute would remain, be removed or be restricted.

Parents disagreeing with that decision could appeal to the local school board. The bill guarantees parental input during the school board review and sets time limits on each phase of the process.

Parents disagreeing with the school board's decision could choose to opt out their children from exposure to the disputed material. The bill also would direct the state education department to adopt a model policy for the complaint resolution process.

The bill won Senate passage on a 29-4 vote last month, Republican Sen. Jason Howell is the main sponsor of the measure — Senate Bill 5.

In earlier debates, Howell acknowledged the bill had stirred a divisive response — some colleagues believe it goes too far and others wish it was even stronger.

"For all, this bill brings clarity and consistency and accountability to the process," Howell said.

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