Here’s the state legislation that could impact Kentucky youth Tuesday, Feb 1 2022 

Since the 2022 legislative session kicked off last month, state lawmakers have introduced a slew of proposals that directly impact young people and children in Kentucky.

The proposed bills cover a range of youth-related issues, including abortion, mental health for LGBTQ minors, corporal punishment and child abuse. Here’s what legislators will be discussing and voting on in the coming weeks. 

Abortion restrictions

Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it harder for minors to get an abortion.

Kentucky already requires minors to get parental consent or a judge’s approval before they can have an abortion. But under House Bill 324, parents who consent to their child getting an abortion would need to provide identification, and physicians would be required to sign an affidavit stating they secured consent before performing the procedure. Doctors who violated the provision would face felony prosecution and disciplinary action from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure.

“It’s very important for us to make sure that these children have the parental consent before they make such a life-altering decision,” said Republican Rep. Nancy Tate. “You know in the schools, we don’t even want our children taking aspirin without their parental consent.”

The current law allows people under the age of 18 to file a petition through the courts if getting parental consent is “not in the best interest of the minor.” The proposal would require a judge to obtain “clear and convincing evidence that the minor is mature,” and that an abortion is in their best interest. A judge would not be allowed to use financial circumstances as a reason to grant an abortion.

“Research suggests that most adolescents do involve a parent in this decision, and those who do not worry that they could damage the relationship with a parent, they fear violence or fear being forced to continue the pregnancy,” said Jackie McGranahan, policy strategist at ACLU Kentucky, which opposes the legislation.

The new bill, McGranahan said, would make the already stringent judicial process even more onerous. 

According to state data obtained by KyCIR, Kentucky judges granted a total of 142 abortions to minors between 2010 and 2020. The courts granted the most petitions — 22 — in 2020.

McGranahan said this increase in petitions means that more and more minors feel that they cannot speak with their parents about their pregnancy due to fear of violence or other harmful outcomes. There’s also a concern among advocates that young people could be dealing with sexual abuse within their home, resulting in pregnancy.

“Decisions about pregnancy are so personal and the best person to make that decision is the pregnant person themselves,” McGranahan said. “It’s not our place, and it’s definitely not the place of the Kentucky General Assembly, to decide for someone else whether or when they should become a parent.”

Other health-related bills:

HB 55 – Certain health insurance policies would be required to cover an annual mental health wellness exam of at least 45 minutes.

HB 183 – Health benefit plans would be required to cover injectable epinephrine devices for minors.

SB 8 – Designed to address loopholes within the state’s existing child abuse and neglect laws, this bill would expand and redefine membership of the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board, to include all forms of child abuse and neglect.

LGBTQ+ Youth

A bill proposed in the state House — the Youth Mental Health Protection Act — would ban conversion therapy on underage LGBTQ individuals in Kentucky. 

Conversion therapy is an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity under the scientifically discredited premise that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is a mental disorder. 

“We already know that suicide rates are outrageously too high for LGBTQ youth across the board,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign. “But for those who have experienced conversion therapy practices, the suicide attempt rate is nearly half of the population.”

Advocacy groups have been trying to ban the practice in Kentucky for years. Several cities have succeeded in passing the ban within their jurisdictions, including Louisville and Lexington.

Under HB 12, licensed mental health professionals — including physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers — would face disciplinary action for violating the act. The use of public funds for sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts would also be prohibited.

“House Bill 12 is a protection for youth. It’s a practice that is detrimental,” said Republican Rep. Kim Banta. “I’ve been told that it doesn’t affect that many people, so it’s not important. But to me, anything that affects a group of youth is important.”

There are at least 145,000 people over the age of 13 in Kentucky who identify as LGBTQ, according to the Movement Advancement Project. According to GLAAD, in states that do not ban the practice, at least 20,000 youth between 13 and 17 years old will receive conversion therapy from a licensed healthcare professional. This is in addition to the estimated 57,000 youth nationwide that undergo conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors.

As advocates and legislators work to increase mental health protections for queer youth, some Republican legislators are looking to pass bills that would specifically prevent transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming health care.

Under HB 253 and SB 84, trans youth wouldn’t be able to receive any gender transition procedures, including hormone therapy, body reconstructions, plastic surgery or speech therapy. Physicians who offer gender-affirming health care with minors would be subject to disciplinary action.

These bills are sponsored by eight Republicans in the House and Senate, including Rep. Savannah Maddox, who wrote on her Facebook page that “every child deserves the opportunity to experience a natural childhood” and should not be given the chance to make life-altering decisions as a minor. 

Hartman of the Fairness Campaign called these bills, and others that would limit trans youth from participating in sports teams, “attacks on trans kids.” 

“The people introducing these bills, I would wager, don’t know any trans folks, certainly don’t know any trans youth, and have no idea the harm that they do just by introducing these measures and having them debated in the state legislature,” Hartman said.

Other LGBTQ Youth-related bills:

HB 23, HB 247 & SB 83 – These bills aim to prevent trans youth from participating in sports team that do not align with their biological sex.

Education

Kentucky is one of 19 states that still permit local school districts to administer corporal punishment, or the use of physical force such as paddling, to discipline students. HB 119 is the latest bipartisan effort to eliminate the practice across the state. 

Many Kentucky school districts have already created policies to prohibit the practice, but according to Rep. Tina Bojanowski, a Democrat from Louisville and sponsor of the bill, some districts either don’t have a clear policy at all or have a policy that explicitly permits it.

“As a special education teacher, I see a lot of kids with behavior issues and some of them are already working through trauma from at home,” she said. “The absolute last thing we want to do for our kids, particularly the ones who are acting out behaviorally, is to hit them.”

Alex Young, a senior at Saint Xavier High School, has been advocating for the end of corporal punishment for five years, calling it a “barbaric” practice the disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable kids.

According to state data, of the 142 instances of corporal punishment during the 2019-20 school year, almost half involved a child with a disability. 

Recently, the Kentucky Board of Education voted to limit the use of corporal punishment in schools, specifically stating that students with disabilities, students facing housing insecurity or students in foster care can’t receive corporal punishment.

“The trusted relationships we need in schools are virtually impossible to form when the threat of violence against students exists in the form of paddling,” Young wrote in an op-ed published in the Courier Journal. “If we want students to respect and trust adults, hitting them under any circumstances is unequivocally the wrong answer.”

Other education-related bills:

HB 18 & HB 14 – Schools and teachers would be prohibited from classroom discussion of race, sex, or religion and would face discipline/fines for violating.

HB 66 – The state would eliminate half-day kindergarten programs and would invest strictly in full-day programs to help boost early education outcomes of Kentucky kids.

HB 31 – Schools would be prohibited from discriminating or disciplining a student based off of hair styles historically associated with race. 

HB 44 –  Local school district’s would be required to amend their attendance policies to include provisions for a student’s mental or behavioral health status.

HB 63 – Would require school boards to have armed resource officers in all Kentucky schools by August 2022

HB 67 – Would require high school curriculums to include the teaching of racism. 

HB 88 – Would require teaching about African-American and Native American history in middle and high school history courses.

HB 94 – Would include naloxone among the medications each school should have on hand to be administered by a trained employee if necessary.

Criminal Code

A Republican-led bill would increase penalties of child abuse in Kentucky if the child is under 12 years of age.

Under HB 263, an adult who causes physical injury, inflicts cruel punishment or confinement to a child under the age of 12, or a child who is physically or mentally disadvantaged, would  face a Class B felony in Kentucky, rather than Class C. People convicted of Class B felonies face 10 to 20 years of imprisonment.

There are 20 Republican sponsors on the bill, including Rep. C. Ed Massey of Boone County and Speaker of the House David W. Osborne of Oldham County. Neither of them responded to requests for an interview.

Other criminal code-related bills:

HB 292 – Would make it a crime to unlawfully store a firearm and establish elements of the crime for recklessly allowing access to an unsecured firearm by a minor.

SB 74 – Would require a court referral for truancy cases when there is no improvement within 30 days and require a court-designated worker to make a finding if diversion is failed due to lack of parental cooperation 

 

The post Here’s the state legislation that could impact Kentucky youth appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Interim President Lori Gonzalez appoints new vice provost for faculty affairs Thursday, Jan 27 2022 

By Anna Williams —

Interim President Lori Gonzalez continues to exercise her powers as president with the appointment of Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards as vice president for faculty affairs.

Dawson-Edwards currently serves as the U of L associate dean for diversity, engagement, culture and climate. She is also an associate professor in the Criminal Justice department in the College of Arts & Sciences. For her experience and contributions to the university, she received the 2016 University of Louisville College of Arts & Sciences Community Service Award.

“We are confident that her work will touch every part of our university to ensure our faculty known that they are supported,” Gonzalez said of Dawson-Edwards in a statement to the U of L community. “Throughout her career, she has worked tirelessly for institutional and community change, always striving to bring greater equity and inclusion to the policies and practices of organizations.”

Additionally, Dawson-Edwards has served as the department chair for the Arts & Sciences Criminal Justice department, director of the Arts & Sciences Social Change Program and acting director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research.

Dawson-Edwards is engaged outside of the university as well, serving as the Kentucky affiliate representative on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was also recently appointed as the nationwide ACLU deputy affiliate equity office. Part of her duties in these positions include ensuring equity and inclusion are constantly pursued in the search and placement of organizational leaders.

Dawson-Edwards’ service in the provost office will begin Feb. 1, 2022.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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Formerly Disenfranchised Kentucky Voters Cast Their Ballots Monday, Jun 22 2020 

For many in the Ohio Valley, voting is a choice, a right they are free to exercise if they want to. But for Jackie McGranahan and the more than 175,000 other formerly disenfranchised Kentuckians, this primary election is special. It’s her first chance to vote since 2008. 

She won’t be going to a voting booth. Elections are a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most voting in Kentucky is happening by mail. But even though she couldn’t go to the polls with her friends or be handed her ‘I Voted’ sticker, that didn’t stop McGranahan from savoring the moment of voting.

“I filled out the absentee ballot. I signed my name and I waited for my postman to come so I could hand it to him directly from my porch to know that my vote will be counted, that I have a voice,” McGranahan said.

ACLU of Kentucky

Jackie McGranahan

McGranahan lost her right to vote after being convicted of a felony drug-related charge. Until late last year, Kentucky banned people with felony records from voting, even after completing their sentences. Now, Kentucky is catching up to Ohio, West Virginia, and 46 other states, at least temporarily, by allowing some people who have served their sentences after being convicted of a felony to cast a ballot. Following up on a campaign promise, Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order shortly after taking office, restoring voting rights for people who have served their time for non-violent, non-sexual felony offenses.

McGranahan has been sober and in recovery for more than four years. She works with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and said normally she’s the one pushing other people to exercise their right to vote. She said so many people like her know what it’s like to not have a voice in politics.

“I remember on Election Day that everyone was taking pictures of their I voted sticker, and it was all over Facebook,” she said. “And it was really exciting for people, but for me, it was a different feeling. You know, it’s kind of, it’s an empty feeling.”

McGranahan remembers the moment her colleague called her to give her the good news. 

“She called to say, ‘Jackie, you can vote.’ And I remember that feeling with tears running down my face that it seemed unreal, but it was so exciting,” she said. “And my heart was filled, completely filled with just excitement, and energy, anticipation.”

McGranahan said the moment was short-lived and bittersweet because so many other people who have been convicted of a felony still can’t vote in Kentucky. 

Temporary Right  

Kate Miller is the advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky. She said she’s glad to see the progress that’s been made in the Commonwealth to expand access to voting for more people. But, she doesn’t think Beshear’s executive order goes far enough.

“We don’t think that anyone should lose their right to vote to begin with,” Miller said. “We think that individuals who are currently incarcerated because of felony convictions should be able to vote. And that’s true regardless of what they’re convicted of.” 

Miller said a year ago she never thought the state would see progress on the restoration of voting rights for Kentuckians, but she was impressed with one bill proposed in the 2020 legislative session.

“It was the cleanest bill that we’ve seen in a long time,” she said. “I think, ever, in terms of not excluding individuals not having a waiting period, not putting up additional barriers.”

Miller said that the ACLU often has to compromise, but when amending the state constitution there are only so many opportunities. In this year’s General Assembly, there was a bill proposed that would amend the state’s constitution and automatically restore the right to vote for many Kentuckians. The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Marion County and passed out of committee, but ultimately wasn’t put up for a vote in the full legislature. 

Miller said there’s nothing more fundamental in a democracy than having the opportunity to weigh in on who the decision-makers are for your community.

Beshear said he does not think everyone who has committed a felony should get back the right to vote. He said in his time as Attorney General, he saw the trauma that violent crimes such as rape, human trafficking, and murder can cause a family and community. 

“There are some crimes that are just so bad and the trauma is so severe that I don’t think it’s appropriate to restore those rights,” he said.

It took two Beshear governors to make the change for people like McGranahan. Andy Beshear’s father, former Gov, Steve Beshear, had signed an executive order on his way out of the office in 2015 to restore voting rights to some people with felony records. When former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin took his place in 2015 he quickly rescinded the order. That’s why Beshear wants to see the change made permanent, which would require an amendment to the state’s constitution.

“This is something that is a great step but ought to be enshrined with a constitutional amendment because it ought to become automatic and not depend on who the governor is,” he said.

Because her right to vote isn’t permanent, McGranahan said she wanted to savor the moment of filling in her ballot, not knowing how many more chances she’ll get. 

“It’s constant anxiety, knowing that in the back of my mind…like I’m very, I’m extremely excited to vote but then knowing, that this could be the last time,” she said.

Beshear also launched a website where people can check to see if they qualify for having their voting rights automatically restored. Kentuckians can check their voter registration online, and sign up to be able to vote in November. It’s unclear if absentee voting will be expanded in the Ohio Valley for the general election.

 

Stranger Danger: Don’t give power to protesters Tuesday, Sep 17 2019 

By Ben Goldberger —

Last week two men stood outside the Student Activity Center next to a large picture of a bloodied infant and posters displaying religious propaganda to express their opinions about issues such as abortion and homosexuality. 

One of the men said, “Men and women are equal, but women have a different purpose.” When asked by a student in front of the group what women’s purpose is, he confidently stated to serve God and her husband.

While these ideas may seem too controversial to be spread legally on campus, they technically are. This is explained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

“[People] have the right to speak out, hand out flyers and petitions, and wear expressive clothing in school-as long as [they] don’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate school policies that don’t hinge on the message expressed,” their website said. In these situations, the protesters have to register with the Dean of Students to be approved to be on campus spreading their beliefs on a certain date and time.

These men had gone through the correct protocol through the school to legally share their ideology. 

The natural reaction to this type of situation is for a group of spectators to form because it is alarming to see someone yelling offensive and misogynistic ideas.

That being said, forming a group around these people spewing such opinions is one of the worst things that can be done in these situations. 

Social Work master student Aaron Spalding arrived in a clown costume to both counter-protest and mock them.

“The Supreme Court has said the correct way to deal with free speech you don’t agree with, such as theirs, is to either ignore it, which would be the best option,” he said. “Or, mock it.”

All these propagandists want is an audience to listen to their extremist views. By forming a group around them and interacting with them, students are providing just that. There is no chance that their minds will be changed from a conversation with a student. The best thing to do in these situations is to stick to the rule all young kids learn:

Don’t talk to strangers. 

These are not two family relatives or distant friends. These are strangers sharing their political views to get a reaction. By ignoring what they are saying, they might relocate. They cannot succeed in spreading their views if nobody listens to them. 

This type of situation should be handled similar to how one would handle a bully. The website GoodTherapy said, “Reacting negatively to their behavior may signal to the bully that they are having an effect, propping up their perceived position of power.” When protesters get a reaction, they receive validation they are doing their job of spreading their beliefs.

Act like they don’t exist, and they will eventually get tired of never reaching their goal.

As a public university in a major city, these events are likely to happen again. In these situations, the power is the students to give. Students can decide to interact with these propagandists and give them the power they are seeking, or resist the urge to shoot down these offensive beliefs and keep the power away from them.

Don’t take the bait, no matter how tempting it is. 

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Metro Council Passes Ordinance To Crack Down On Panhandling And Jaywalking Thursday, Aug 8 2019 

The Louisville Metro Council has passed an ordinance that would fine pedestrians — including panhandlers and jaywalkers. It was billed as a public safety measure and was supported by council members who say it is designed to prevent pedestrian fatalities on busy roads.

The new rule passed Thursday night limits the permissible reasons pedestrians may approach vehicles in intersections, defines where it is safe to cross roads on foot, and prohibits individuals from lingering on medians.

Groups including some labor union leaders and the American Civil Liberties Union initially criticized the ordinance for potentially infringing free speech rights. But after the vote on an amended version of the ordinance, the ACLU tweeted that Louisvillians’ First Amendment rights would not be affected while on sidewalks.

Others say it could unduly punish those who travel on foot.

District 9 councilman Bill Hollander, who voted against the measure, said his constituents in neighborhoods like Clifton and Crescent Hill frequently cross roads away from intersections. The ordinance includes jaywalking among infractions that could carry fines of $25 to $250.

 “I know, in my district, that happens every single night, every night, every hour. I’ve had people tell me there is no other place they can safely cross, except not at an intersection. I’ve had people in wheelchairs,” Hollander said.

The ordinance passed easily with a 17 to 7 vote.

Appeals Court Hears Ky. Abortion Bill, While Bevin Ceremonially Signs Other Abortion Measures Thursday, Aug 8 2019 

On the same day Gov. Matt Bevin ceremonially signed four new abortion-related bills into law, a three-judge panel heard oral arguments Thursday in a case debating the legality of a state law that requires abortion providers have a written agreement with a hospital to transfer patients in case of an emergency. That law has been held up in courts since 2017.

A federal judge struck down the law late last year, but the state appealed that decision. Now it’s being considered by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Former Republican State Representative Addia Wuchner, who was present during the oral arguments and supports the law, said requiring a transfer agreement sets a basic standard of care for people seeking abortions. It kicks into effect if there’s an emergency like hemorrhaging.

“This shouldn’t be [about] those that would be supportive of abortion, or those who would be opponents to abortion: this is really a women’s health matter,” Wuchner said. “It’s about making sure that when that transfer occurs, there’s already protocols set in place — emergency rooms don’t do abortions every day.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union argues requiring these agreements puts a bigger burden on patients that outweighs any potential benefit. Heather Gatnarek, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Kentucky, said if the transfer agreement law is enforced, the only abortion clinic left in Kentucky — the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville — would lose its license and shut down.

“There would have been no clinic in the state of Kentucky, which is an incredible burden on patient’s ability to access care, about the most burdensome you can get,” Gatnarek said. “There is no evidence put forth that patients who go to hospitals that have transfer agreements are better cared for than those without.”

Bevin Signs Laws

Also on Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin ceremonially signed into law four abortion-related bills that passed this year’s legislature. Bevin has previously stated he is the most “pro-life” governor in the U.S.

Two of the state’s new laws have already been temporarily blocked in court after the ACLU sued the state. The first bans abortion if a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected – usually around six weeks of pregnancy. The other bans abortion if a person is seeking the procedure because of the fetus’ sex, race or a potential disability. Those cases are pending in federal court based in Louisville.

Another bill is already in effect. This law was known as the “abortion reversal” bill. It makes abortion providers give patients information about potentially reversing a medically-induced abortion. Research on the effectiveness of a so-called abortion reversal is inconclusive. Medical professionals, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say the procedure is unproven. The ACLU hasn’t sued over this law, but says they’re monitoring the measure’s enforcement.

The last bill Bevin signed is HB148, which would make abortion illegal in Kentucky if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Attorney Heather Gatnarek said the ACLU of Kentucky hasn’t filed suit on this because the organization has more pressing laws to focus on. 

“We have a lot of lawsuits that need our attention, and some of which would make it nearly or actually impossible for people to obtain abortion care in Kentucky,” Gatnarek said. “So right now, those are the lawsuits that we are our most focusing on.”

Abortion Views

On Thursday morning, Planned Parenthood of Kentucky released poll results from a survey of 500 registered Kentucky voters and their views on abortion and reproductive health. The poll shows that views on abortions may have changed since 2014, when the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of Kentuckians said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and thirty-six percent said the procedure should be legal in all or most cases.

About 26 percent of people in the Planned Parenthood poll said abortions should be legal and only have limited regulation, 16 percent said abortion regulations are necessary and that it should be legal and 37 percent said abortion be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a woman. Eighteen percent said abortions should be illegal in all cases.

About 65 percent of those polled responded that access to reproductive health options, including abortion, was “important.”  And about 86 percent support “medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sex education in the public schools,” that would include information on abstinence, STDs and birth control.

Other findings:

  • 38 percent of people said the state legislature is putting too many restrictions on abortion. 30 percent said not enough, and 18 percent said just right.
  • 65 percent of people said they would have doubts about a law that bans abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion.
  • 81 percent of people agreed that birth control is a part of health care overall.
  • Almost 40 percent of people were more likely to vote for a candidate because they voted to restrict abortion access, while 41 percent said they were less likely to vote for that person.

The poll was taken in June by Lake Research Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that consults for progressive organizations. Forty-eight percent of those polled were Democrats, 41 percent were Republicans and 11 percent were unaffiliated.