Proposed bill would make Texas schools out LGBTQ students, critics say

FILE - Rainbow flag (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
FILE - Rainbow flag (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — A proposed bill in Texas is already stirring up a lot of controversy. Critics argue the bill, which was filed several days after the November election, would force schools to out LGBTQ student to their parents.

Senate Bill 242 would give parents in Texas full access to all written records held by school districts regarding their child’s “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being,” and if the school doesn’t comply, the bill says that employee would be subject to discipline.

“There’s not a reason for the legislation,” Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas said. “The only purpose for the legislation would be to target a marginalized community for discrimination.”

Critics of the bill, including Smith, say it’s a direct attack on LGBTQ students. Smith argues that the proposed law would force schools to out gay students against their will to their parents.

“If we have any situation in which a student feels more comfortable having a conversation with a school employee because they are afraid to have that conversation with a parent, there’s a reason for that fear,” Smith said. “And we need to be able to allow teachers and counselors to assess that and determine whether or not they believe that the disclosure of information could result in harm to a child.”

The bill’s author, State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, says the backlash is based on misinformation. Burton said in a statement that her bill will protect a parent’s “right to know” or “right to matter” in their child’s life. Burton added that the bill does not explicitly use the words “sexuality” or “gender” in the text.

“Parents and schools have always been partners in the education and rearing of children, and they have always exchanged information in the best interest of the child,” Burton said in a statement on her website. “However, myself and others witnessed firsthand a local school in my district attempt to subvert that relationship.”

Sen. Burton says the bill was written in response to the Fort Worth school district issuing new guidelines about transgender students earlier this year. Under those guidelines, schools are required to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice, based on the gender of their choice.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made transgender bathroom rights a top priority this legislative session. Patrick has spoken out several times during the interim against schools who wish to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Under the current Texas law, a parent has the right to access information regarding their child. The proposed bill would include information regarding the child’s general well-being and health, both physical and mental. Senate Bill 242 would exclude any information related to child abuse.

“We need to be able to allow teachers and counselors to assess that and determine whether or not they believe that the disclosure of information could result in harm to a child,” Smith said.

The bill will be considered in the next legislative session, which starts in Austin on Jan. 10.

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