Posts tagged with Kansas Legislature

Legislating restrooms and religious clubs: How would bills affect KU?

Kansas lawmakers in the past week have advanced a couple pieces of legislation that could affect certain Kansas University populations: transgender students who need to go to the bathroom, and students who want to join a religious club they don’t necessarily agree with.

One was just signed into law, and I’m unqualified to guess whether the other is going anywhere, but I did do some poking around to find out how they compare with the status quo at KU.

First, restrooms.

In short, two separate but identical bills proposed in the House and Senate would require transgender students at Kansas public schools and universities to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for their chromosomal sex at birth. (This story provides more details.)

With help from KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, I determined that with the exception of a KU Libraries policy that prohibits use of library restrooms “for purposes other than which they are intended,” KU doesn’t currently have any rules or regulations about where people can go to the bathroom.

There are a number of single-occupancy restrooms on campus (often called family restrooms), some of which have signage specifying that they are gender-neutral — even though by definition they already are. It doesn’t seem this bill would apply to those, but rather only restrooms that are designated for one sex or another.

None by Hugo Macias, Jr.

The Kansas Board of Regents doesn’t have any overarching bathroom policies, either, but says federal laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination would dictate what’s required. According to a memo from the Regents legal team, transgender students seeking to use restrooms designated for the sex they identify as have repeatedly won court cases, and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has also ruled that they can use the restroom of their choice.

Next, religious clubs.


Gov. Sam Brownback signed this bill into law Tuesday, and it will take effect in July — although, according to The Associated Press, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled nearly six years ago that universities can require membership in such groups to be open to all. The bill will allow college religious groups to restrict membership to like-minded students.

Currently at KU, all registered KU organizations are open to all students, KU spokesman Joe Monaco said. Whether they actually receive university funding or not (clubs often get money in the form of student fee revenue) doesn’t matter, Monaco said — all registered KU organizations are eligible to request it so they’re all in the same category and follow the same rules.

There is an overarching Regents policy specifically addressing club membership. Relevant passages:

The established policy of the Board of Regents prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, physical handicap or disability, status as a Vietnam Era Veteran, sexual orientation or other factors which cannot be lawfully considered, within the state universities. All fraternal and campus related organizations shall follow this policy in the selection of their members, except the prohibition against sex discrimination shall not apply to social fraternities or sororities which are excluded from the application of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1681 et seq.).

The right of organizations to establish standards for membership is acknowledged, provided that all students are afforded equal opportunity to meet those standards. Just as all students have the right to choose those with whom they would associate on the campus, an organization shall have the right to select its members subject to these principles.

There are currently 36 registered KU organizations in the “Religious” category, according to a search of groups listed on Those include lots of Christian groups, several Jewish ones, the Muslim Student Association and the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, to name a few.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at


Sporting events, high-risk facilities mentioned as likely locations for prohibiting guns at KU; fans may have to go through metal detectors at Jayhawk games

The subject of guns on campus, as it usually does these days, came up in Thursday’s Kansas University Senate meeting. A KU-specific policy for implementing the law is still in infancy and nothing has been decided, but some tidbits of Thursday’s discussion may be of interest to the KU community.

For one, the University Senate’s weapons committee will continue to meet with groups across campus, University Senate President Mike Williams said. He said conversations with KU Athletics leaders indicate KU will at least need to put in place adequate security measures to prohibit guns during games at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium. That raises the possibility that fans will have to go through metal detectors at both Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium.

Also, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said areas with sensitive materials are likely candidates for security measures. (She did not specify any locations, but faculty have previously cited concerns over science and engineering labs housing combustible substances.)

“There are places at the campus where, because of the materials there, they’d have to be excluded because an accidental discharge of a weapon would be disastrous,” Gray-Little said.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015. by Sara Shepherd

A committee led by KU administration will develop a policy for allowing concealed carry on campus, which will be required by state law beginning in July 2017. Last month, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a policy requiring each state university to develop a campus-specific plan.

In other University Senate news:

• The KU Staff Senate has created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Staff Senate President Chris Wallace reported. “We’ve come to realize our Senate is not real diverse,” he said, adding that the committee’s goal is outreach to underrepresented groups.

• The University Senate elected a new vice president, graduate student and Student Senate representative Brent Lee. Lee will complete the term of Shegufta Huma, who is not enrolled as a student this semester.

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at

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State senators introduce bill in attempt to permanently exempt universities from concealed carry law

A group of five democratic state senators — including two from Douglas County — is trying to reverse the portion of a law requiring public colleges to allow concealed carry of guns on their campuses starting in July 2017.

Under current law, the personal and family protection act, postsecondary educational institutions are among a handful of entities allowed a four-year exemption before they must allow guns, like other state and municipal buildings have been required to do for the past few years. That exemption runs out in July 2017. (Sidenote: Other entities with the same four-year exemption are medical care facilities, adult care homes, community mental health centers and indigent health care clinics.)

Senate Bill No. 348, introduced Jan. 21, would scratch colleges from the exemption list and, instead, state that the law does not apply at all to postsecondary educational institution buildings, or buildings leased by them. (Another note: Buildings on the grounds of the Kansas state school for the deaf or the Kansas state school for the blind are currently the only place the concealed carry law doesn’t apply, according to the legislation.)

The bill was referred Friday to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. You can track its progress via

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus, pictured in May 2015. by Sara Shepherd

The bill was introduced by senators Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan; Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita; Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City; Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City.

Holland said universities should be able to decide whether they want to prohibit guns and not have that decision “forced upon them” by the state.

“Honestly, the schools won’t have enough money to put the proper security machines in place to rectify if they want to keep guns off campus,” he said. “Once again the state has overreached.”

Francisco said she agreed prohibiting weapons should be an institutional decision. She added that since only people 21 and older are allowed by law to carry concealed, practically half the people on college campuses would not be allowed to, which she called inconsistent and “disconcerting.”

I’ve heard a representative may be planning to introduce a related measure in the House. I’ll try to do a follow up report if and when that happens. (See update, below.)

The Kansas Board of Regents and state university administrators — at least at Kansas University — in the meantime aren’t counting on any changes in the law and continue to plan for the arrival of guns on campus beginning in July 2017. The Regents last week passed a statewide policy directing individual schools to create their own, more specific policies, about how the law will be implemented on their respective campuses. Read more about what the Regents policy says here.

So if the law that means guns will come to campus has been around a couple of years already, why are constituents on campus and legislators in Topeka just now speaking out against it?

“When it was four years from now, people could say, ‘Oh I’m going to deal with that later,’” Francisco said. “I think now there are many discussions about how could we actually address this.”

UPDATE (Thursday):

Rep. Barbara Ballard, (D) Lawrence, said she introduced a nearly identical bill in the House Standing Committee on Appropriations last week. She said she’s hopeful that by introducing the bill in committee, it will have a “stronger chance of going somewhere.”

Ballard’s bill, House Bill 2526, also would move postsecondary institutions off the four-year exemption list and onto the list of entities to which the concealed carry law does not apply, she said.

“Concealed carry and education don’t go together,” she said. Ballard added that, under current law, if universities want to prohibit it in any buildings after July 2017 their only option is to put in security measures. “We don’t have that kind of money, and higher ed doesn’t have that kind of money.”

Ballard was inspired by a statewide poll that she said showed 82 percent of Kansans don’t support campus concealed carry, as well as university students and faculty members speaking out against it. When the initial legislation was passed several years ago, 2017 seemed far away, she said. “The closer we get to it then the students on our campus and the students on other campuses start getting involved.”

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at

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KU student-government leaders planning to lobby state legislators on concealed carry on campus, higher-education funding

We're just a few days away from a new Kansas legislative session, and KU's student government is getting ready to join in the fun.

Student Body President Hannah Bolton is rounding up students to come along on Higher Education Day, Feb. 11, when student governments from all the Kansas Board of Regents institutions will head to Topeka to lobby on the sorts of issues that might matter to college students.

Bolton said the KU representatives would focus on three issues in particular:

• Concealed carry on college campuses. The KU students will lobby against this, as they did last year at the same event. Bolton said the student-government groups at the other Regents universities would each be writing resolutions opposing on-campus concealed carry, as well.

• Potential higher-education funding cuts. Gov. Sam Brownback won't unveil his recommended state budget until the session starts, but the state Division of Budget last month recommended cuts of approximately 8 percent to higher-education funding, according to the Board of Regents. Bolton said that number is worrisome to students, so they'll hammer this one hard.

• And, finally, issues related to international students. Bolton said some of these issues (such as working restrictions) will apply more to the federal level, but one issue the KU students might consider will be in-state tuition for illegal-immigrant students who've lived in the state for at least three years. She said she wasn't sure how other student governments might feel about that issue, though.

KU student-government folks will also head to Washington, D.C., to lobby along with contingents from other Big 12 schools in March.

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