Bills limiting discussion of gender issues or use of alternate pronouns in schools advance

Published 3:16 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

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By Elizabeth White | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday advanced two bills limiting the discussion of gender issues or the use of alternate names or pronouns in schools.

Both bills passed the committee unanimously with no objection from the only Democrat present, Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews of Monroe House Bill 121, sponsored by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would prevent teachers from calling a student by a name or pronouns that do not match their birth certificate. Parents would be able to give written consent for their child to be called by a different name.

However, teachers would be able to refuse to call the student by a different name due to religious beliefs. In that case students could be moved to a different classroom.

“It really tries to put these social issues to the side between the parent and the child and not involve the teacher in this,” Crews said.

Critics of the bill, including teachers and advocates, stated that this measure is unnecessary and singles out an already vulnerable group of students. They also voiced concerns about schools not being big enough for a child to change classes if a teacher opts out.

“I understand that the bill has measures in place for parental permission, but it’s a very harmful situation when a parent doesn’t support their trans student,” Peyton Rose Michelle, the executive director for Louisiana Trans Advocates said. “It is the top reason for suicide in our community.”

House Bill 122, sponsored by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, would prohibit teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 public schools.

This would include teachers discussing their own sexual orientation and facilitating discussions pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity during classroom instructional time unless such topics pertain to the curriculum.

“This bill will provide our public-school systems with firm guidance and clarity in instructing teachers to stick to the curriculum,” Horton said. “It will give our parents the confidence they need when they drop their children off at school. They won’t have to worry about inappropriate conversation happening in the classroom.”

The bill states that these topics would also be prohibited from being discussed in extracurricular activities, which raised concerns for many opponents.

Opponents also called the bill unnecessary and vague. They expressed concern that it would be harmful to student-teacher relationships and classroom discussion.

“In my opinion it’s purposely vague to create a chilling effect in the classroom in which the teacher is uncertain of what is and is not acceptable,” Jacob Newsome, a public-school teacher, said.

The bills have already passed the House and will next go to the Senate floor.