DEI “four letter word”? Beshear speaks out as Kentucky bills target school programs

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FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Legislature is considering several bills this session to limit diversity, equity and inclusion measures in schools and other organizations.

However, Gov. Andy Beshear had a different message Thursday when he and other lawmakers gathered to mark the start of Black History Month — too often, he said, “DEI” is compared to “a four-letter word.”

“Diversity is an asset,” he told a crowd at a ceremony at the Kentucky Rotunda. “It makes us stronger. It makes us better.”

He added that equity is “something we should all want in our hearts,” while inclusion is “what we teach each and every one of our children, and how we are supposed to navigate this world as one people — one Kentucky team.”

Beshear, a Democrat, has little control over what the Legislature, whose majority is Republican, passes. He can veto bills when they reach his desk, but members of the General Assembly have the ability to override that veto before the session ends.

Several bills pending in the Legislature target DEI offices and procedures in Kentucky schools and universities.

Coverage update: List: Here are the latest bills in the Kentucky Legislature for 2024

Senate Bill 6from Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, would allow college employees and students to sue if they believe they have faced discrimination because of “a refusal to support or endorse any divisive concept,” such as the superiority of one race or gender, or that someone could be “privileged or is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” because of his or her race or ethnic background, and that the person feels guilty or upset because of his or her race or gender identity and that the state of Kentucky and the United States as a whole is racist or sexist.

SB 6 has eight other sponsors in the Kentucky Senate. It was assigned to the Senate Education Committee but was not brought up for discussion.

Another suggestion, Senate Bill 93 It would prohibit public schools and charter schools from using programs or training that promote “diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging or encourage or engage in political or social activity,” while cutting language calling for schools to use a “trauma-informed approach” with students who have been affected by trauma. End diversity and bias awareness training for school resource officers.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Litchfield, is the bill’s sponsor and said “trauma-informed approaches” cut parents out of discussions. According to the Kentucky Lantern. His bill, along with three other co-sponsors, has also been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

And in the other large room House Bill 9 It would prohibit Kentucky universities from requiring anyone to endorse or condemn certain political or social ideologies and prohibit differential treatment in the hiring or enrollment of students because of race, sex, nationality, or religion. It also prohibits influencing the composition of a school’s student body on the basis of race or gender, prohibits colleges from devoting any resources toward “promoting discriminatory topics” and prohibits courses that promote “discriminatory topics or DEI initiatives” from being counted for academic credit.

HB 9 is sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, who said in a press release that the bill aims to “provide much-needed oversight for our public universities, which were founded on the promise of opportunity for all but appear to have lost ground.” Road.” The project has 18 other cosponsors and is under consideration in the House Education Committee.

Lawmakers are scheduled to be in session until the end of March, and Beshear will have 10 days to veto the bills after that. Lawmakers will return to session on April 12-15 and will have a chance to override the veto at that time.

Contact Lukas Aulbach at laulbach@courier-journal.com.

This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: Andy Beshear defends DEI as the Kentucky General Assembly attacks it

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