KDE releases guidance for schools on new law concerning transgender students and lessons on sexuality

The Kentucky Department of Education is issuing new guidance to schools over the recently passed Senate Bill 150.
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 3:45 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Department of Education is issuing new guidance to schools over the recently passed Senate Bill 150.

The bill prohibits instruction on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases for grades five and below, requiring KDE to change the current academic standard, which was to “Describe basic male and female reproductive body parts and their functions as well as the physical, social and emotional changes that occur during puberty.”

“Some students we know are undergoing, or they’re going through puberty in the fifth grade or in some cases earlier; they won’t be able to receive any information from schools about that until the sixth grade, so schools will need to think about how they can connect students with other supports or information about that,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass.

Additionally, districts cannot provide instruction to students of any grade around gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

SB 150 also includes new restrictions on transgender students’ access to bathrooms, requiring local boards of education to adopt policies that prohibit students from using restrooms or locker rooms reserved for a different biological sex.

The bill prevents the KDE from providing its own guidance around pronouns, but they are advising districts to remain aware of federal protections when considering these policies pointing out that Senate Bill 150 may contradict federal rules.

“In spite of the Legislature’s prohibitions on supporting LGBTQI+ students or transgender issues or issues around prohibitions around when certain concepts can be taught if at all those people exist in our society, there are legal issues around them,” said Glass. “They have rights just like everyone else.”

We spoke with a member of the Berea Independent School Board about the challenges they are seeing.

Rebecca Blankenship was sworn in as a member of the Berea Independent School District’s Board of Education in January, the first openly transgender person elected to public office in the state.

“Real shame we’re at this moment where Kentuckians are having to be afraid,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship says the guidance the KDE released Monday is too broad, and the confusion it’s causing may do the most harm.

“It’s an old practice that schools across Kentucky have created gay/straight alliances, LGBTQ affirming clubs, opportunities for students to seek communities outside of the classroom. That, too, is under threat with the new Department of Education guidance,” said Blankenship. “I am hopeful that parents will see what a real rejection of first amendment rights this represents.”

The Commissioner of Education and Blankenship say Senate Bill 150 itself contradicts federal laws.

Emma Curtis, with Kentucky Young Democrats and a trans woman herself, agrees.

“And that’s going to create a situation where parents, teachers and students are confused at best and scared at worst,” said Curtis.

Advocates now calling on the state Board of Education for further clarity.

“We talk a lot about how these bills are attacking trans kids. And I think a lot of times, people hear ‘trans’ and stop listening,” said Curtis. “They don’t realize these are kids we’re talking about.”