Bill outlining school pronoun policies advances in Louisiana
BATON ROUGE (AP) — As the culture war over pronouns plays out in statehouses across the country, Republican lawmakers in the Louisiana House chamber advanced a bill Monday to the Senate that would require teachers to use a student’s name and pronouns that align with their sex assigned at birth.
Republican Rep. Raymond Crews authored and pitched the bill as a “parental rights” piece of legislation, noting that a student can receive parental permission to use pronouns that do not correlate with their sex assigned at birth. However, teachers can reject the parent’s choice if it is contrary to the educator’s “religious or moral convictions.”
Democrats and some independents called the bill “discriminatory” to the LGBTQ+ community, fearing that it will cause increased harm to an already vulnerable group and arguing that conservative lawmakers are prioritizing religious beliefs over the wants and needs of a parent and transgender children.
“This is not a parental rights bill, unless the parents believe the same thing as Rep. Crews,” state Rep. Joseph Marino III, an independent who voted against the bill, said Monday. “It’s an anti-transgender bill. It’s a ‘We don’t like seeing people that are different’ (bill).”
Across the country, conservative lawmakers have taken aim at nearly every facet of transgender existence — from health care to athletics to bathroom access — this legislative session season, and the contentious topic of pronouns is no exception.
Most recently, last week in Florida lawmakers gave final passage to a bill that would prevent students and teachers from being required to use pronouns that don’t correspond to someone’s sex. Earlier this year, Montana passed a law that would block schools from punishing students who misgender or deadname peers — referring to the name a transgender person used prior to transitioning — so long as it doesn’t rise to the level of bullying. Indiana adopted a law that would require schools to tell parents when their children ask to be called by a different name or by a pronoun that that of their sex assigned at birth; Alabama adopted a similar but more stringent law.
Louisiana’s bill was met with hours of tearful testimony from members of the LGBTQ+ community last week and contentious debate by lawmakers on the House floor Monday.
Crews said the legislation was created to “solidify and identify parents’ rights to raise children,” to make sure “parents are in the loop” if a child wants to use pronouns that differ from their sex assigned at birth, to decrease the “distraction” that he says pronouns are causing in classrooms, and to protect teachers and school board members from “this type of politicization.”
“Schools are for teaching reading, writing, arithmetic. It’s not for engendering a new social culture, or making someone believe differently than they already do,” Crews said. “This bill is something to protect the institution, protect the teachers, protect the parents and protect the children.”
Opponents say that instead of protecting students, this bill would cause harm — especially among people in the LGBTQ+ community, which multiple studies have shown already are at high risk of bullying and depression.
“It is a bill that’s specific to one community in this state. Schools should be a safe place for every single one of our students. And this legislation is actually harmful to LGBTQ youth,” Democratic state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman said. “It does not provide them a safe learning environment, because of the thought that they may be called out because of they are in a different community than the majority of the school.”
Along with Crews’ bill, Louisiana recently advanced its own “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would also require the name and pronouns that align with a student’s sex assigned at birth to be used. The legislation, which advanced from committee and will be debated on the House floor, would ban K-12 public school staff from teaching or discussing gender identity and sexual orientation, including during any extracurricular activity.
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