Senate Bill 5 moves to Governor’s desk; sponsor responds to anti-LGBT+ criticism

Senate Bill 5 would mandate schools provide a way for parents to voice complaints about material in schools they deem harmful to minors.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:59 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Senate Bill 5 would mandate schools provide a way for parents to voice complaints about material in schools they deem harmful to minors, which the school’s principal would then have 10 days to respond to.

“Senate Bill 5, in its essence, deals with issues that are important to a lot of parents involving certain material that some would view as pornographic or not appropriate on some level to be presented in schools,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jason Howell.

While many public schools do have methods for parents to share complaints, Howell says this will ensure parents are listened to.

“We don’t have a one size fits all state, we have a very diverse state with a very diverse population,” Howell said. “I wanted to be able to have a way for the parents to be sure that their interests were addressed involving their children.”

Haley Siler, daughter of a public school teacher and mother, said she believed the bill to be an overreach of government authority.

“Do believe that there are people who might feel a little threatened because there might be experiences outside of their own that are represented, Sure?” Siler said. “That is part of being alive and participating in the world.”

Howell said he acknowledges that children may be exposed to harmful materials outside of the classroom, between phones and the internet, but hopes the bill will allow parents to discuss the material with their children rather than a teacher.

“This information coming from a school setting rather than from an out of school setting, with the authority that’s attached to material from the school for math, English, and everything else, it means more,” Howell said. “That’s one thing that we can control.”

Some take issue with the bill’s language, saying it could be used to wrongfully ban books dealing with LGBT+ issues.

“This battle has been going on in local school districts throughout the past year and not just in Kentucky. This is a well coordinated national effort to try to remove LGBTQ materials from the shelves in school libraries,” said Executive Director with the Fairness Campaign, Chris Hartman.

“I feel very strongly that our school teachers, our school librarians, do an excellent job of bringing good materials into our schools,” Siler said. “These types of bills are often aimed at parents who are afraid of their child being exposed to anything other than what they believe.”

Though Howell says neither are the case, and what books are removed would be entirely up to the school’s principal.

“In larger districts, this is allowed to be drilled down to where a principal on one side of town might view something one way and the principal on the other side of town might view it another way,” Howell said. “It gives the closest that you can get to the people actually affected.”

Howell added that he hopes parents who do feel wronged by books that may be removed under the bill, also take their complaints up with the principal as well, to do what they believe is best for their child.

The bill passed the senate 80-18 and will now move to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk.