SB17: Clarifying student freedoms

By Joyce Ostrander - Guest columnist

Lawmakers often avoid new legislation because they don’t want to overregulate or create unintended consequences, both reasonable things to avoid.

Lawmakers also avoid needed legislation if it draws media fire, especially if it isn’t happening in their backyard … yet.

Hence the adage, “Nothing moves in government unless it’s pushed”.

In other states, we have seen speakers (the conservative ones) “uninvited,” student-led groups (the Christian ones) denied the right to meet on campuses, and others being mocked by faculty and peers and often forced into silence because of their politically incorrect opinions.

Last year, California State University President Covino intended to “reschedule” conservative columnist Ben Shapiro’s lecture. Shapiro and the politically conservative student group who invited him held the lecture anyway. They were met with angry protestors blocking entry to the building. The few students who arrived early enough to get in before protestors arrived were told by campus security to leave by sneaking out the back door.

The campus’ response? A “safe space” debriefing was held in the Student Union, not for the beleaguered conservatives, but for the liberals who felt “unsafe” having a conservative speaker on campus.

As much as I disagree on many points with Milo Yiannopoulis I do agree that political correctness is, like the title of his new book, “Dangerous.” Students at UC Berkeley rioted recently, protesting Yiannopolis’ talk scheduled by a conservative student group. The subject of the talk was the danger of political correctness. Students opposing Yiannopolis broke windows and lit fires, causing over $100,000 in damages and basically proving Yiannopoulis’ premise.

Granted, the University of Kentucky is not Berkeley but the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gave UK a “yellow” rating, citing concerns about the University’s policy limiting free speech to specified “zones” on campus.

In essence, schools are less and less places where truth is sought, intellect is developed, and ideas are tested and refined. Instead, freedom of thought and speech are in serious peril.

It’s true, the most egregious examples occur not in Kentucky but in other states- you know, the ones on the coasts.

Mark Twain was purported to have said “I want to be in Kentucky when the end of the world comes, because they are always 20 years behind.”

But Kentucky might not be 20 years behind on this. It was in Kentucky, after all, that in 2006 Russell County High School Senior Megan Chapman was prevented by a court order from praying at her graduation ceremony.

And in 2015 that the Paintsville elementary Christmas program was censored, “protecting” students from the sinister A Charlie Brown’s Christmas play. Thank goodness for the bravery of the administration in sparing those students from the “terrible fate” of the millions who have had to hear about the meaning of Christmas while watching this treasured classic.

Senator Juliann Carroll said in last year’s committee hearing on Kentucky Senate Bill 17, The Student Free Speech and Religious Liberty Bill, that people are “so afraid of crossing over the line that they aren’t getting anywhere near it.”

Lawmakers can help protect Kentucky students regardless of their political or religious viewpoint. Passage of viewpoint neutral SB17 would make the appropriate “line” more clear for administrators, teachers, parents and students. Last Friday, the Kentucky Senate thought it was time to “push” or perhaps “push back.” Now it is time for the House to act.

After all, what happens in California doesn’t stay in California.

By Joyce Ostrander

Guest columnist

Joyce Ostrander is a policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Joyce Ostrander is a policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky.

comments powered by Disqus