Lawrence school district superintendent denounces bill banning gender-affirming care for youths

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The Lawrence school district superintendent has spoken out against state legislation that would block transgender youths’ access to gender-affirming health care in Kansas.

If enacted, Senate Bill 233 would prohibit Kansas medical professionals from providing care like prescribing puberty blockers and performing gender-affirming surgery for people younger than 18. The Kansas Legislature on Wednesday voted to send the bill on to Gov. Laura Kelly.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis expressed support for the district’s trans community in a video posted Friday.

“I will tell you that Lawrence Public Schools and our Lawrence Board of Education are extremely concerned about recent Kansas legislative actions that show harmful disregard for the human rights of the trans community,” Lewis said in his statement. “This is a free state, so it should be about protecting and celebrating the diversity of all Kansans.”

The bill would also “prohibit a state employee whose official duties include the care of children from, while engaged in official duties, providing or promoting the use of social transitioning” for trans kids, so state employees could not respect a child’s pronouns.

Lewis referred to the district’s anti-discrimination policy, and he encouraged students and staff to seek support from the district’s mental health teams during this time, if needed.

“Lawrence Public Schools prohibits discrimination based on gender, gender expression, or gender identity,” he said in his statement. “We will do all we can to continue to support and protect the rights of our students and staff of our trans community within Lawrence Public Schools.”

Kelly now has the opportunity to sign or veto the bill. She’s been a proponent for health care autonomy in the past and repeatedly vetoed bills that require trans or gender-nonconforming students to compete only on athletic teams that correspond to the gender determined for them at birth.

Kelly’s veto of House Bill 2238, which bans trans girls from participating in girls’ sports, was overturned. HB 2238 — or what proponents have called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” — was enacted in July 2023 alongside another bill, Senate Bill 180, the “women’s bill of rights.”

Lewis, school board President Kelly Jones and other school board members have spoken out against the legislation, voicing unwavering support for the district’s trans and gender-nonconforming students and staff.

In its vote on Senate Bill 233, the Kansas House of Representatives was two votes short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to overturn a governor’s veto. The Senate’s vote of 27-13 would be enough to override a veto.

Legislators whose districts include parts of Lawrence or Douglas County split on party lines in their votes on the bill.

Republican Sens. Beverly Gossage and Rick Kloos voted in favor of the bill; Democratic Sens. Marci Francisco and Tom Holland voted against it. Republican Reps. Carrie Barth, Lance Neelly, William Sutton, Ronald Ellis and Adam Turk voted in favor; Democratic Reps. Christina Haswood, Barbara Ballard, Mike Amyx and Dennis “Boog” Highberger opposed.

See Lewis’ full statement regarding Senate Bill 233 on the district’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/@USD497.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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