Governor Sam Brownback has signed into law, Senate Bill No. 175 which prohibits institutions of higher learning in Kansas from taking action against student organizations who prevent others from joining their group because of their religious beliefs. This has the potential to cause lawsuits to be filed against universities and colleges if they deny the religious student groups recognition, equal use of facilities, or if that organization is denied funding for their exclusion of other students.
“Senate Bill 175, is concerning. The language of this bill, allows student groups to sue the University, if they are denied recognition, funding, or other benefit, for expelling members from their group who don’t adhere to the group’s religious belief. This could easily allow discriminatory practices by student groups, if they claim their religion to exclude others.” Said Trae McPherson, WSGA Senator, legal studies.
Universities around Kansas, could be in trouble with the potential of lawsuits, and because it possibly could cause the loss of federal money that require university activities and programs to be non-discriminatory. If the bill affects university budgets, with the current cuts to higher education, there is the potential for program and department funding to be cut as well. Universities will no doubt be worried about lawsuits brought by students, and money expended in those court battles.
Colleges campuses have always been a diverse place, but the bill has potential to start tension between different groups and inflame interpersonal relations, not counting those who may protest these measures. The university administrators would not be the only worried party affected by this bill, student governments are generally responsible for funding student groups on Kansas campuses. These student governments have rules in place to not fund organizations or events that are discriminatory or restrictive. Although, the student governments may be required by their institution’s legal department to change their policies.
Now that we know that S.B. 175, will become law July 1st, it’s not the only legislation that’s got students worried. The Kansas Legislature has moved forward with bills in the Senate and the House that would allow for Universities (and even K-12 schools) to be sued for allowing transgender students use a bathroom that does not match the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. The bill as introduced in the Kansas Senate, would allow students to sue for $2,500 for each instance the student had used the improper restroom, plus attorney’s fees, and monetary damages for psychological, emotional and physical harm.
“I think that the idea of potentially receiving money just because someone who is transgender is using the same bathroom as me, or whoever is absolutely absurd. First off it is none of mine nor anybody else’s business if someone is transgender. People should be able to use the bathroom in peace no matter their gender.” Said Kasey Paez, Junior social work
Senate bill 175 is going to be a problem as soon as it goes into effect on july first, but if senate and house pass the bill dealing with transgender then there will be problems forming all over the state. These are not the type of bills kansas officials should be focusing on because these bills do not help improve the state of kansas.