The Board of Regents meets Dec. 8, 2022, at South Dakota Mines in Rapid City. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)
The state Board of Regents reviewed a draft policy Thursday in Aberdeen responding to public concerns about minors attending a drag show on a college campus.
“I think we are at a good place here, but we expect some tweaks around the margins,” said Nathan Lukkes, the board’s chief of staff. “The policy essentially establishes the guardrails.”
Drag shows were not mentioned during the meeting and are not specifically mentioned in the draft policy, but the effort is a response to concerns about a drag show that was advertised as “kid friendly” last year by a student organization at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
The board directed staff to begin developing the policy in December. The board approved the first reading of the policy Thursday and will give it final consideration at a later meeting.
Despite the public outcry that motivated the policy and the presence of a large crowd at a prior meeting where it was discussed, not one person – online or in-person – offered a comment on the policy during Thursday’s public comment period.
According to the board, the draft policy is intended to “take affirmative steps to safeguard and protect the well-being of minors visiting campus, attending university-sponsored events and programs, or participating in external organization programs and activities that utilize campus facilities.” The policy would add some new requirements for universities and codify some practices that are already in place.
Language in the policy bars non-student minors from attending programs that include “content that is patently offensive to prevailing community standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors.”
The policy says non-student minors generally cannot be in university facilities without a valid purpose or express permission, except if accompanied by an authorized chaperone. And if they fail to comply, they may be immediately removed.
The policy says programming attended by non-student minors may not include activities sexual in nature, obscene live conduct, or anything deemed harmful to minors.
Authorized adults participating in university programs with non-student minors must not have one-on-one contact with minors, except in limited circumstances and in the open. Additionally, they must not take pictures of minors except for official pictures of the program and only with parental or legal guardian consent.
The policy also declares that a “program leader” must be appointed for any program involving non-student minors. They are responsible for ensuring the policy is obeyed, including certifying background checks have been conducted for adults involved in the program.
For youth programs, all authorized adults must pass a criminal background check and a sex offender registry check.
Non-compliance with the policy may result in program suspension, discontinuation, or cancellation.
“This is our first read, and there is an opportunity for input,” Board of Regents Chair Pam Roberts said.
Celebrating tuition freeze, other bills
The board also approved keeping 2024 tuition rates at their 2022 levels for a second year in a row. The decision affects students taking courses during the upcoming year at the state’s public universities.
The board applauded legislators for their work during this year’s recently concluded legislative session in Pierre, citing the tuition freeze, a 7% pay raise for state employees (including university employees), upping the state Opportunity Scholarship to $7,500, and a bill awarding free college tuition to National Guard members.
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