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Proposed bill to require schools to report kids who share gender identity, orientation information

A boy with glasses and a plaid blue shirt sits in a classroom facing forward
WFIU/WTIU
A state lawmaker wants to require public schools to reveal certain details of how children express their gender identity and orientation in the classroom.

A state lawmaker wants to require public schools to reveal certain details of how children express their gender identity and orientation in the classroom. SB 354, authored by Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), would make teachers tell parents if a student expresses changes in certain aspects of their name, attire or pronouns.

Raatz said this bill has “everything to do with parental responsibility and rights.”

He said every parent has a different parenting approach and it is their right to know this information about their children.

The legislation is not unique. Across the country, state lawmakers are proposing bills that would restrict transgender students’ rights and how sexuality and gender is discussed in schools. Former President Donald J. Trump is already making gender policies within schools part of his campaign for the Republican presidential primary.

Harvard University researchers have identified more than 275 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures across the country. More than 40 mirror the bill authored by Raatz.

The ACLU of Indiana’s Katie Blair said Raatz’s bill would harm LGBTQ+ and transgender youth.

“So this legislation puts transgender youth in danger,” she said. “Transgender youth already experience severely elevated levels of bullying.”

A 2021 national survey of LGBTQ+ students reported 68 percent of students felt unsafe at school because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Blair said this is one of a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills authored this session. She said that she is not expecting to see “anything positive come out of this session.”

Blair said this bill also relies on out-of-date ideas.

“This legislation relies on subjective, outdated and potentially sexist ideas about how boys and girls must traditionally dress and behave,” she said. “So it's not just trans students that are affected by this – it's all students that are going to be under increased scrutiny from teachers and administrative staff.”

READ MORE: Advocates gather at the Statehouse, protest nearly two dozen anti-LGBTQ+ bills

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.

Chris Paulsen is the CEO of the Indiana Youth Group, a group that supports LGBTQ+ youth. She said this bill will negatively affect LGBTQ+ youth.

“That is a definite hit on their mental health – so I don't know what the purpose of the bill is, but the consequences are kids are going to die,” she said.

Indiana Youth Group works with LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and mental health issues. Paulsen said bills like this can exacerbate these problems.

“When you out kids to their parents, that puts them in a very unsafe situation,” she said. “A lot of times, they're kicked out of their homes, they're denied food or clothing – the supports that kids need as they're growing up,” Paulsen said. “So we know that this bill will cause more kids to seek our services because they will become homeless and suffer from mental health issues.”

Paulsen said she is hopeful that the “safety of youth is not politicized.”

Blair agrees and said that last year, lawmakers from both political parties felt that many of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills unfairly targeted and bullied children in these groups.

“And so I'm hopeful that we receive support from both sides of the aisle like we did in the past,” she said.

A hearing on this bill is not yet scheduled.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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