Senate approves two student-related bills and a pro-Ukraine resolution

Jan. 25—MORGANTOWN — The state Senate unanimously approved two student-related bills on Wednesday and sent them to the House. Senators also adopted a resolution indirectly supporting Ukraine by recognizing a genocide that took place there during the Stalin years.

SB 264 would prohibit people who have been convicted of certain crimes against minors from holding positions on boards of education—state and county. School board candidates must attest on their candidate filing that they have not been convicted of any of the crimes.

The offenses include distributing and displaying obscene material to minors, sexual assault and abuse, filming of sexually explicit conduct of minors and child abuse.

SB 121 is the Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act. It requires that the Department of Education and the Higher Education Policy Commission "allow for the free expression of student journalists on campuses of middle schools, high schools, and colleges and universities."

It also protects the instructors and administrators who support that right. Its intent is to "encourage students to become educated, informed, and responsible members of society."

It does not protect libel, slander, obscenity, invasion of privacy or criminal action. Except in cases where these occur, the bill forbids prior restraint of material prepared for official school publications. School officials have the burden of showing prior justification for their limitation of student journalists' expression and must afford students a timely opportunity for appeal.

SR 13 90th Anniversary of the Holodomor Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-1933 The resolution says the Stalin regime engineered a famine by confiscating all food supplies, which led to the deaths of up to 10 million people. This was intended as retribution for and suppression of a movement for Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union.

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, referred to the genocide as "callous and depraved disregard for the sanctity of human life. ... Like you, I find it hard to wrap my mind and heart around the fact that such cruelty can exist in the hearts of men."

The resolution says, "The official recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide by the government of Ukraine represents a significant step in adjudicating Soviet crimes and in restoring Ukraine's national identity as a free and democratic nation."

Rucker expressed hope that this resolution might dovetail with SB 216—which is sitting in the Education Committee—that would require all schools to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides, and help citizens take a stand against such things reoccurring.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp EMAIL dbeard @dominionpost.com