21st September 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — The debate continues over how to interpret a controversial law that will change how sex education is taught in Kentucky schools. The war of words between the GOP-led General Assembly and Kentucky Department of Education refers to one section of Senate Bill 150, passed earlier this year.

“The Kentucky Board of Education’s advisory guidelines suggest to school districts that they have a choice as long as they’re limiting what they teach elementary school students. They’re not restricted by that legislation in terms of what they’re allowed to teach middle school students,” Dr. Steven Voss told FOX 56.

The bill’s sponsor and several state Republican leaders said Kentucky education officials are wrong and the bill’s intent was clear. They point to a 1952 court ruling, Chilton v. Gividen, that says “when necessary to carry out the obvious intention of the legislature, disjunctive words can be construed as conjunctive, and vice versa.” However, because there’s a court precedent doesn’t necessarily mean the law gets changed overnight, nor that KDE must alter the guidance it issued last week.

“You can’t sue until you have something to sue against, right,” Voss said.

Voss explained that until someone or some group comes forward that has a reason and the ability to sue, known as standing in the legal world, not much will change until Republicans come back and make their fix. That could take up to a year as lawmakers don’t return for a Regular Session until January, and without an emergency clause, it would not take effect until 90 days upon adjournment.

In the meantime, school districts are left with a difficult decision as they form their own policies for the next school year. Although the KDE, presents the sex education sections as an option, Voss pointed out there is nothing the law to prevent districts from adopting both policies, as the law was originally intended.

“So even though right now the law seems to say that schools can pick either limit what we show elementary school students or we have to limit what we show middle school down, they could do both, anticipating that later on the law will be fixed to fit with what the legislature pretty clearly intended,” Voss said.

Voss also mentioned this isn’t the only loophole KDE’s guidance points out that could affect the law such as it referencing the principal choosing curriculum when it’s actually the superintendent and that not teaching about sexual orientation also includes heterosexuality.