Kentucky Takes Aim at “WOKE” in Higher Ed

On March 14, 2024, a bill to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in Kentucky’s public universities cleared the House by a vote of 68-18.  Senate Bill 6 (An Act Relating to Postsecondary Institutions) is the most recent Stop-“WOKE” legislation aimed at eliminating diversity-related initiatives on state campuses. 

Kentucky’s SB 6 defines DEI as any policy that promotes or provides “differential treatment or benefits” on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, etc., and applies broadly to practices around employment, admission, conferences, and presentations.  The bill follows a conservative agenda in the Commonwealth to prohibit public universities from spending any money on DEI offices, employing DEI officers, or providing DEI training, and would require all existing DEI programs to be immediately eliminated. The bill would ban race-based scholarships and prohibit the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education from approving degrees that require courses or any training that “justify” or “promote” so-called “discriminatory concepts.” 

If enacted, in addition to allowing Kentucky’s attorney general to sue public colleges if the law is believed to be violated, the bill would also provide for a private right of action by students and/or their parents, employees, and applicants. 

Kentucky’s SB 6—which closely tracks Florida’s law that defunded DEI institutions within the state’s publicly funded college system—is the latest installment of a broader, national anti-DEI effort. The bill is one of more than 80 bills that have been introduced in more than 30 states since early 2023.  

The Kentucky Senate is expected to decide on this bill within a matter of days. While Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will likely veto the bill, this will be purely procedural as Republicans hold supermajorities in both Kentucky’s House and Senate.

We will continue to keep readers apprised of significant developments.  

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.