Pair of bills banning gender discussion in schools passes on Senate floor

BATON ROUGE – A pair of bills aimed at banning the discussion of gender and sexual orientation in schools passed on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

Rep. Dodie Horton’s House Bill 466 passed by a 29-9 vote Monday.

Horton’s bill was modeled after a Florida law deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” law that went into effect on July 1, 2022.

Florida’s HB 1557 was immediately challenged as unconstitutional on multiple grounds in a lawsuit filed on behalf of LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, Equality Florida and Family Equality, and several students, parents, and educators, according to the National Education Association.

Horton’s bill would require that no public school teacher, employee, or presenter discuss sexual orientation or gender identity deviate from state content or curricula with K-12 students.

“It basically forbids teachers to discuss their sexuality in the classroom,” said Sen. Beth Mizell, who presented the bill Monday. “It doesn’t prevent a student from seeking help from a counselor. There’s a lot of false information on it, but primarily, it does just protect a student from being involved with inappropriate sexual talk from teachers or faculty in the classroom.”

Public school employees would also be prohibited from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity during extracurricular academic, athletic or social activities with students.

The bill also states that a student can seek out guidance from a teacher or licensed mental health professional outside classroom hours with prior parental consent.

Sen. Louie Bernard, R-Natchitoches, said teachers had contacted him about the proposed bill. He read a comment from one teacher.

“Did they really think that we’re doing that?” Bernard read. “Do they think we have time to do that? We can barely get through teaching the kids what we have to do all day. Now, we’re put in a position of being afraid somebody’s going to say that they heard us say this or they heard us say that. They’re afraid of something that might lose their jobs.”

The bill says no school employee shall use pronouns for a student that differ from the pronouns that reflect the sex indicated on the student’s birth certificate unless the student’s parent provides written permission.

Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, spoke in opposition to the bill. He said the bill was unnecessary and thought it negatively impacted the state’s current teacher shortage.

“I have concerns about this bill and the need for it,” he said. “We have an obvious teacher shortage, and this is just another thing or issue that teachers are going to have to be concerned about or worried about as they try to carry out their duties to educate our young people.”

“I’m not here to question the intent of anybody who might support this legislation,” he added. “I’m just concerned about the impact that it has, particularly on certain communities, certain individuals who feel targeted or who feel excluded. Whether or not that’s the intent is not what I’m here to speak about. I just want to talk about the impact and I think the impact in the end can be more harmful than the actual benefit.”

House Bill 81

House Bill 81 would require parents to submit a form for public school teachers and employees to use a name that is not on the student’s birth certificate or to use pronouns that are not in accordance with the student’s sex.

The bill passed the Senate floor with a 31-8 vote.

Rep. Raymond J. Crews, R-Bossier, authored the bill. The bill passed 3-1 in the Senate Education Committee on June 1. Sen. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Sen. Robert Mills, R-Minden; and Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton-voted for the bill. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, opposed it.

Public school employees would also be required to use pronouns that align with the student’s biological sex unless the student’s parents provide written permission to do otherwise.

The bill specifies that public school employees would not be required to use pronouns for students that differ from pronouns that align with the student’s biological sex if doing so would be contrary to their religious or moral convictions.

The bill authorizes parents to request a transfer to another teacher if the parent disagrees with a teacher’s decision to refrain from using a pronoun for a student.

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