Gov. vetoes bill targeting transgender athletes, parents bill of rights

Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 5:03 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed two bills - one which targets transgender athletes and one that would have created the parents’ bill of rights for elementary and secondary school students.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says on Friday, April 15, she vetoed Senate Bill 160 - the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The bill would have required student-athletes to only be included in teams of the same biological sex unless designated as a coed team.

“Both Republican and Democratic Governors have joined me in vetoing similar divisive bills for the same reasons: it’s harmful to students and their families and it’s bad for business,’ Kelly said. “We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete. However, this bill didn’t come from the experts at our schools, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”

The bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 8 and referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was passed through the Senate on March 2 with a 38 - 1 vote. It was then passed to the House and its Committee on Agriculture and passed through with a vote of 120 - 2 on March 25.

A motion to adopt a conference committee report with the bill was passed in the house in April 1 with a 74-39 vote and the Senate with a 25-13 vote.

“This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses. It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than strategic, pro-growth lawmaking,” Kelly noted.

However, Senate President Ty Masterson said the bill would have protected women who work and train all their lives in the sports they compete in.

“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is about just that – fairness. It simply sets guidelines that ensure the fair playing field continues for women that we have recognized for decades,” Masterson said. “It’s about protecting the woman who worked and trained all her life and should not have her hard work wiped out by being forced to compete on unlevel playing fields.”

On Friday, the Governor also vetoed Senate Bill 58 - the Parents’ Bill of Rights. This bill would have established rights for parents of students attending elementary or secondary school in Kansas which would require:

  • Parents be informed of and inspect any materials, activities, curriculum, syllabi, surveys, questionnaires, books, magazines, handouts, professional development and training materials, and other materials provided to the parent’s child;
  • Parents be allowed to inspect and review all educational and health records of the parent’s child maintained by the school district;
  • Parents may object to any learning material or activity based upon harm to the child or impairment of the parent’s firmly held beliefs, values, or principles and withdraw the parent’s child from said activity; and
  • Parents may challenge the material or educational benefit of any book, magazine, or other material available to students in the school library, the successful result of which is to lead to the removal of the item from the school.

“Throughout the pandemic, parents had to step up and do the impossible. Go to work. Take care of their children. Teach, tutor and facilitate their children’s learning. When it comes to their children’s education, parents can and should play a vital role. We know that parental engagement in their child’s education greatly impacts the outcome,” Gov. Kelly said.

This bill was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 21 and referred to the Committee on Judiciary and then passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote. It was then sent to the House Committee on Judiciary, where it was amended and also passed unanimously. A conference committee report was also adopted with the bill with a 67-46 vote in the House and a 23-15 vote in the Senate.

“This bill, however, is about politics, not parents. Over one hundred Kansas parents testified against this bill. It would create more division in our schools and would be costly. Money that should be spent in the classroom would end up being spent in the courtroom,” the Gov. noted. “That’s unacceptable, especially after our efforts to bring Democrats and Republicans together to fully fund our schools for the last four years.”

“I look forward to working with the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion on a bill that gives parents a seat at the table without harming school funding or exacerbating the issues facing our teachers,” Kelly concluded.

“Democrats in Kansas are determined to find out the hard way what Democrats in Virginia learned last year: voters don’t elect candidates who tell parents they don’t matter,” said Republican Governor’s Association spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “From shutting down schools for the year earlier than any other state to vetoing legislation that would protect a parent’s role in their children’s education, Democrat Laura Kelly has told voters repeatedly she will always choose the teachers’ unions funding her campaign over Kansas students and parents.”

Masterson said the bill of rights was an essential tool.

“The Parents’ Bill of Rights is an essential tool to allow parents to access curriculum and information about what is being taught or provided in the classroom, ensuring they are able to challenge objectional material that has been appearing all too often in our schools. By choosing secrecy over transparency, the governor is indicating she believes parents are the enemy and that schools have a right to hide what they are teaching our children.”

Masterson vowed the Senate will hold override votes when legislators return to the statehouse on April 25.

To read the full text of either bill, click HERE.

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