Grammatical error could be loophole from parts of SB 150 in schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — One of the most controversial pieces of legislation to come from Kentucky’s most recent legislative session is a bill said to essentially regulate the lives of transgender youths. And one specific word could be the loophole when it comes to certain educational topics in schools.

Senate Bill 150 requires parental notification on “sexually-related matters,” bans gender-affirming medical care for minors and does not require educators to use pronouns that don’t match the student’s gender on their birth certificate among other things.

On Monday, the Kentucky Department of Education released guidance for the 2023 school year regarding newly passed bills, including SB 150.

The confusion comes during one of the portions of the guidance when talking about adopting the curriculum when teaching about human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. The word “or” instead of “and” on page four of the bill could make all the difference.

That portion of the bill says the following:

“A policy to respect parental rights by ensuring that:
  1. Children in grade five (5) and below do not receive any instruction through curriculum or programs on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases; or
  2. Any child, regardless of grade level, enrolled in the district does not receive any instruction or presentation that has a goal or purpose of students studying or exploring gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation”
Gov. Andy Beshear, at his weekly Team Kentucky briefing, spoke on the or/and confusion, saying “this is what happens” when bills are rushed to get them through the legislature.

“If you pass a law saying you can do this or that, it’s a lot different than you pass a law saying you must do this and that, and whether or not it was intentional or unintentional, it is the law that they passed and we can’t read a law having different words in it than what is actually on the paper that they vote on and that they ultimately pass. This is what happens again when you shield a law from the public,” he said.

Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), a sponsor of the bill, said he believes it’s “clear” what “the legislature meant.”

It is clear the legislature meant, in Section 2(1)(d) of SB 150, that schools shall not have classes in human sexuality in grades five and below, or study gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation at any grade level.Kentucky courts previously ruled that “an interpretation [of a statute] which will lead to an absurd result will be avoided,” and “when necessary to carry out the obvious intention of the Legislature, disjunctive words can be construed as conjunctive, and vice versa.” Chilton v. Gividen, 246 S.W.2d 133, 135 (Ky.1952).

Obviously, the legislature would not pose these two requirements, which protect children and protect parental rights, as a binary choice for school systems to select to enforce.

The role of the executive branch is to faithfully execute the law. The Beshear administration is, by extension of Commissioner Jason Glass and the Kentucky Department of Education, making a feeble attempt to undermine the law and shamelessly inject politics into Kentucky classrooms. KDE demonstrates its clear political lean when it gives SB 150 such a contorted interpretation.

The Kentucky General Assembly continuously strives to refocus education solely on academics and provide necessary protections for our teachers, parents, and students,” he told ABC 36 in a statement.

KDE responded to our request for comment with the following statement:

On Monday, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released updated non-regulatory guidance for the bills passed during the 2023 legislative session that contained an emergency clause, this included additional information on Senate Bill 150.

The updated guidance was designed to provide additional clarity to school districts regarding the policies and parental notice required by Section 2 of SB 150. This updated guidance followed requests from school districts for additional guidance and technical assistance concerning SB 150.

As the state education agency, KDE is charged with providing guidance and technical assistance to school districts on all educational laws and programs. The guidance produced by KDE gives administrators and educators information to consider when a district is devising its own policy, but this is guidance only.

The Kentucky General Assembly chose to use the conjunction “or” not “and.” When it comes to state law, words have meaning and KDE simply read the words adopted by the General Assembly.

To read SB 150, head here: Senate Bill 150
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