Chairman Barker and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify in favor of removing the high bar in Kansas law that allows certain individuals to promote material harmful to minors in public and parochial schools.
Our state laws should safeguard the rights of parents to shield and protect their children from harmful material, especially in schools. Pornography and obscene materials are becoming more and more prevalent in our society and it is all too common to hear of cases where children are not being protected from the harm it inflicts. Frequently, we learn of cases in the news or we hear from parents about adults acting cavalier when minor children are confronted with pornography, even in educational settings.
Please note current law doesn't allow any prosecution to public establishments. It appears the words "or public" were inadvertently left out, as Section 1. (c) explicitly applies to public institutions.
The other recommended changes make it very clear what would be unlawful. Specifically, it can be found in the bill under Section 1. (d)(2) on page 2, beginning at line 14. Bold emphasis has been added to (C) in this document, because the media seems to leave it out of all their stories.
(2) "harmful to minors" means that quality of any description, exhibition, presentation or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse when the material or performance, taken as a whole or, with respect to a prosecution for an act described by subsection (a)(1), that portion of the material that was actually exposed to the view of minors, has the following characteristics:
(A) The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance has a predominant tendency to appeal to a prurient interest in sex to minors;
(B) the average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance depicts or describes nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors; and
(C) a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors;
Why is this change in law necessary? Because there are cavalier attitudes about harmful materials displayed to minors in schools that could scar a young person's mind for life. In addition, there are an increasing number of members in our society that are being charged with sexual crimes, including teachers outside the classroom. We don't often know what is happening inside the classroom - because of current law. (I'll give an example below.) It has taken courageous children and their parents to step forward as they are doing today to plead for your help.
In 2014, the prominent display of a poster on a classroom door in middle school was photographed and given by a child to their parent who was shocked and dismayed by the list of sexual acts that were posted by a school official.
As other parents became aware, they also found the poster to be highly offensive and exceedingly harmful to their children. Some parents were grieving that the damage the poster caused to their young children's minds could not be undone.
The act of putting up this poster should not be trivialized. Not only are children traumatized when they don't receive proper information and it is given to them without proper parental oversight, please imagine a child being sexually abused, seeing the poster and believing some of these sexually explicit acts are just another way of showing affection.
The list likely spurred many conversations among the eleven and twelve-year old children, and were most probably filled with confusion and embarrassment, creating an atmosphere that would encourage bullying. To protect their children, parents have a right to know when there is a push to normalize these types of sexual acts to their children.
In November of last year, there was a news story about students in an Olathe public school who saw pornography on their teacher's computer. Unfortunately, we don't know the parents of the students or even the name of the teacher. What we do know, because of current law, nothing was deemed to be illegal.
Teachers and school officials should be people that children and their parents can trust. SB 56
, which passed out of the Senate with a vote of 26-14, will ensure that can still happen.