SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Minors visiting South Dakota public colleges will face some restrictions on what events they can and cannot attend.
Tuesday the South Dakota Board of Regents (BoR) passed a new policy that will prohibit minors from attending university sponsored events, or external events held on campus, which include specific sexual activities, obscene live conduct or any material meeting the definition of “harmful to minors.” Content descriptors such as “may contain explicit content” must also be used for promotional material for programming that may include sexual situations, nudity, violence or other explicit content.
The policy was inspired by a recent drag show hosted by the South Dakota State University Gender and Sexualities Alliance group. Backlash to the show included criticism from state lawmakers and advocacy groups requesting the university not allow children to attend the event that was advertised as family friendly.
Republican Representative Chris Karr introduced a bill during the 2023 legislative session to create a policy addressing such events on state-funded property or using state resources. Karr’s bill advanced through the House of Representatives but eventually died in the Senate Education committee. Wednesday, he told KELOLAND News that the BoR policy is a step in the right direction.
“I want our Board of Regents to be proactive as I do our state government, instead of reactive,” Karr said over the phone. “I appreciate them. You know, they met last year before session and said, ‘Hey, we hope the legislature can do something to clarify this for us.’ Maybe what we did during session provided enough clarity.”
Karr’s bill went beyond preventing minors from attending such events and sought to prevent any “lewd or lascivious” material from happening using state resources.
“If it doesn’t have to do with education our folks at the higher education level and it pertains to what we do on college campuses then let them go rent a private facility,” Karr said.
Karr said he hopes the Board of Regents looks into furthering their stance but said he is interested in bringing back similar legislation if the Board does not pursue this issue further than the newly implemented policy.
“I think that there’s a huge cost of that. We’re sitting here trying to recruit students from other states, making sure our students come to our universities, let’s focus on education not the social issues,” Karr continued. “I think that’s a lesson we can take from Budweiser recently is, let’s focus on our product. Let’s focus on our customers and let’s not focus on the social issues.”
Shuree Mortenson, communications director for the Board of Regents, said that the Board had the policy reviewed by Governor Kristi Noem’s office and other stakeholders following its first reading in March.
“Yesterday’s approval was the result of a statewide collaborative process,” Mortenson wrote via email.
The policy also prevents authorized adults involved in events with the presence of minors from doing the following:
- “Have One-On-One Contact with Non-Student Minors, unless the nature of the specific Program activity requires the same (e.g., private lessons, tutoring, interviews, etc.), in which case the One-On-One Contact must take place in a location that is observable and interruptible;
- Have any direct electronic communication, including social media, with NonStudent Minors without an education or programmatic purpose for the communication and without another Authorized Adult, or the Non-Student Minors parent or guardian, being included in the communication;
- Enter a Non-Student Minor’s private room, bathroom facility, changing area, shower area or similar private area occupied by a Non-Student Minor without another Authorized Adult in attendance;
- Take pictures of Non-Student Minors except as part of official pictures of the Program and only when the parent or legal guardian has signed the appropriate waiver;
- Haze, bully, or otherwise engage in abusive conduct of any kind toward, or in the presence of, a Non-Student Minor;
- Use alcohol or illegal drugs while supervising, or in the presence of, a NonStudent Minor;
- Strike, hit, administer corporal punishment to, or touch in an inappropriate or illegal manner, or manner that a person could reasonably interpret as inappropriate, any Non-Student Minor or allow the same between Non-Student Minors; or
- Use or allow any obscene or sexually suggestive comments or sexual innuendo to, or in the presence of, a Non-Student Minor.”