Texas bill might make teachers out students to their families, taking away one last safe space for LGBTQ kids
You have to give conservatives credit for never giving up their fight to restrict people they don’t agree with, I guess. For the latest installment of “shitty things lawmakers do to the LGBTQ community,” consider this Texas bill that would make schools out students to their parents, without any regard for their privacy or personal safety. As if life weren’t dangerous enough for LGBTQ youth, now they wouldn’t even be able to take solace in school or with a trusted teacher. Good idea, Texas.
The bill, SB 242, was introduced by Konni Burton and hasn’t passed yet, so there might still be hope. Burton introduced the bill in response to guidelines in the Fort Worth school district mandating that faculty couldn’t disclose a transgender student’s identity to their parents unless the student gave them permission.
Don’t give Fort Worth any credit for keeping LGBTQ youth safe, though. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick threw a tantrum and the school district caved to pressure. Not to be outdone, Burton decided that the state needed safeguards against fostering nurturing relationships between students in need and school faculty. Under SB 242, any faculty member or school employee (like a guidance counselor) would face disciplinary action if they didn’t disclose a student’s gender or sexual identity to their parents.
The bill, which won’t be discussed until the state’s Senate is back in session this January, says parents have a right to all “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being (except information related to child abuse)” details about their kid. Burton’s chief of staff, Elliott Griffin, said in a statement that this is an “unfortunate interpretation” of the bill, which he maintains just streamlines a current law mandating that if a parent calls asking about their child, the guardian has a right to an “expectation that the school isn’t going to withhold valuable information.”
What these legislators fail to see is that the world is a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth (and adults!). If a teen or child is talking to a teacher at school, it’s probably a good sign that they don’t have someone else to talk to. If they don’t think their conversations are protected, why bother to talk?
Steven M. Rudner, the chairman for Equality Texas, is fighting against Burton’s brilliant idea. “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,” Rudner said in a statement.
Marginalized communities don’t feel safe right now. In the wake of the election, calls to LGBTQ and transgender hotlines spiked. The Trans Lifeline reported that at least eight transgender youth killed themselves within 24 hours of the election. The National Suicide Prevention hotline received 660 calls between 1 and 2 a.m. that Wednesday, two and a half times more than they usually get on a Wednesday night.
Passing a law like this one only increases the divide for LGBTQ youth and the emotional support they need. Let’s all stop pretending conservative lawmakers have the students’ best interests at heart — if they did, they would see why SB 242 is being “interpreted” as a threat to the well being of the LGBTQ community in Texas. It’s pretty obvious.