By SUMMER BALLENTINE
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — K-12 public school teachers and counselors would be largely outlawed from talking about LGBTQ people under a Missouri proposal more restrictive than what critics call Florida’s “ Don’t Say Gay ” law.
Republican state Sen. Mike Moon’s bill, which received a Tuesday committee hearing in the GOP-led Missouri state Senate, is among several filed across the nation this year that are similar to Florida’s new law.
The Missouri proposal goes farther than the Florida law, which bars instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity and other lessons deemed not age appropriate in kindergarten through third grade.
Missouri’s bill would only allow licensed mental health care providers to talk to students about gender identity and LGBTQ issues in K-12 public schools, and only if guardians first give permission.
“The bill follows the lead of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill but does so with broader impact and implications than any bill being considered in the nation,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of the LGBTQ state advocacy group Promo.
North Carolina senators are expected to vote Tuesday on legislation to prohibit instruction about sexuality and gender identity in K-4 public school classes. The proposal would require schools in most circumstances to alert parents prior to a change in the name or pronoun used for their child.
In Kansas, top Republican legislators are focusing on helping conservative parents remove their children from public schools over what’s taught about gender and sexuality. The effort has become their alternative to pursuing a version of the Florida law.
Supporters of the Missouri proposal argued Tuesday that parents should be informed about conversations between teachers or counselors and students about gender and sexuality.
“This is protecting vulnerable children and attempting to protect them from conversations that need to be had with the approval of the parent and potentially at home,” sponsor Moon told a Senate education committee.
Democratic state Sen. Greg Razer, who serves on the committee, called the measure the “most disrespectful bill” he has seen since taking office in 2017. Razer said it would prohibit teachers in his Kansas City legislative district from letting students know that he is Missouri’s only openly gay state senator.
“What is so offensive about me that it can’t be talked about in schools?” Razer asked Moon.
Erker-Lynch told committee members that the legislation “systematically and very specifically erases LGBTQ identity and presence from classrooms.”
“The fact that the bill was dignified by being given a Senate committee should be appalling to any person paying attention and a wake-up call to those who are not,” she said.
The Missouri measure’s chances of advancing are unclear, but other transgender-related legislation seems likely to pass.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden has said Senate Republicans are unified against letting transgender girls play on girls’ sports teams, and lawmakers are considering bills to ban gender-affirming treatments for minors.
Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many states, labeled child abuse and subject to criminalizing bans. It has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
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