Kansas Democrats said they were caught "unprepared" by a discussion on a controversial bill, and now it's too late to make any amendments before it goes to a final vote. Senate Bill 56 would make it easier to prosecute teachers and school administrators in Kansas who use "harmful materials" in their lesson plans, the Wichita Eagle reports. Supporters say such a bill would keep kids safe from pornography, while critics are saying it violates free speech. According to Senate rules, yesterday was the only day the bill could be discussed, amended, and and objected to, with an official vote set for tomorrow. But that discussion took place when Sen. David Haley, one of eight Democrats in the Senate, had reportedly stepped out of the chambers, and while Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley was in a meeting in his office.
The bill comes after a sex-ed poster used in a Shawnee Mission middle school classroom caused a hubbub last year: The poster asked "How Do People Express Sexual Feelings?" and featured such activities as "oral sex" and "grinding," WDAF-TV reported. While Republican Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook says that the bill "protects children and the rights of parents," per the Eagle, and that materials of literary or scientific value wouldn't put teachers at risk, some educators are already voicing their objections. An art teacher in the Wichita school district tells the Eagle, "When the religious laws regarding art are more restrictive than the European Renaissance, you've gone too damn far." Haley is miffed that no other Democrats opposed the bill while he and Hensley were MIA. "How do we fight it tomorrow?" he tells the Eagle. "Tomorrow's just a straight up or down vote. … It's just shortsighted, and unfortunately we did not have a more vigorous debate." (Read more Kansas stories.)