LGBTQ advocates are fighting Texas legislation they say would require public school educators to out queer students to their parents.
Senate Bill 242, filed by Republican state Sen. Konni Burton, would entitle parents to all records concerning their child’s “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being,” as well as all counseling records and teacher and counselor evaluations. The only exception would be for cases of child abuse. Employees or school districts that attempt to withhold this information, or encourage children to do so, would be subject to “discipline.”
Critics say the wording of the bill means teachers would have to share a students’ sexual orientation or gender identity with parents, if the parents ask.
“We feel it to be very harmful to students,” Sondra Howe, of the Dallas chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People, told the Daily Beast. “If they have not come out at home, there is a reason for that.”
Tipping off parents who may be hostile to a child’s orientation could expose that child to abuse or neglect at home, or lead to a higher risk of suicide, critics contend. It could even result in a child being forced into conversion therapy — a damaging and scientifically discredited tactic meant to change a person’s sexuality, the New Civil Rights Movement noted.
“Until kids are not kicked out of their house for being gay or transgender, and until kids are not being beaten by parents for being gay or transgender, we owe it to kids to protect them,” Steven M Rudman, chairman of Equality Texas, told CBS News. “We believe Sen. Burton’s legislation would essentially destroy protected communications between a student and an educator.”
Burton crafted the bill to counteract new Fort Worth school district guidelines about transgender students, which limit parents’ access to some information about their children. In a May op-ed, Burton slammed the guidelines, saying the district superintendent enacted them without a vote by the school board.
Burton’s chief of staff, Elliot Griffin, emphasized during an interview with the Houston Chronicle that educators would only have to hand over information if parents asked. Griffin called the threat of students being forced into conversion therapy “an unfortunate interpretation” of the bill.
Lawmakers will consider the bill during the legislative session that begins Jan. 10.