By Patrick Tedder
As a parent, how would you feel if your child was outed to you by the public school system? How would you feel if they weren’t?
If Sen. Konni Burton of Texas has her way, a new bill will be passed that requires public schools to give parents "any general knowledge regarding the parent's child possessed by an employee of the district” and records "relating to the child’s general physical, psychological or emotional well-being." At the heart, this sounds like something most adults can agree on, BUT, Burton’s core interest appears to be aimed specifically at transgendered students.
In an op-ed, Burton mused about “alarming” guidelines put forth by the board that are intended for the protection of LGBTQ students:
“Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner recently announced new guidelines for faculty and staff on the handling of its transgender student population. These new guidelines require the recognition of the preferred gender identity of the student, the use of the pronoun he or she prefers, accommodations for the use of bathroom and locker room facilities and participation in the physical education of their preferred gender identity. These guidelines will affect all students, not just transgender students, and to act as if they do not need public and parental input is quite alarming.”
Want to confuse the issue even further? According to TribTalk, “Fort Worth makes it clear that they can and will share this same private information with a third party without parental consent should they decide it’s in the student's best interest.” It has to be asked: who is this third party and what authority do they have to decide what is best?
Reactions to this news are falling predominately into two categories:
1. This will do irreparable harm to the psychological and physical wellbeing of LGBTQ students.
2. Parents do have a right to know what is going on in their child’s life and not knowing could be both harmful and psychologically detrimental.
As many are decrying Burton’s views as hatemongering looking to target LGBTQ students, I believe we need to take a step back and look at the situation more carefully.
The birds and the bees can be hard enough for families to talk about, and for many, that conversation is becoming more complicated. However, that is not an excuse to ignore it. Parents need to be willing to converse with their child in hopefully an open and intelligent manner, and I know that there are countless parents across the country who will love and accept their child regardless of their gender association and/or sexual preference.
However, there are many families who don’t. According to San Antonio Current:
“Nearly half of the country’s homeless population who are under the age 18 identify as LGBT — often a result of being kicked out the house from an intolerant parent. Hundreds of other parents banish their LGBT children to a "reparative therapy” program until they are 18. In fact, this wildly discredited conversion “therapy” is still a piece of the state’s GOP platform. If they’re lucky enough to stay at home, other kids may just fall victim to child abuse — a statewide problem Texas officials openly admit to not handling well.”
Further complicating matters, Senator Burton’s bill comes on the heels of a bill by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that would block transgender Texans from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. It’s not hard to draw lines that quickly create direct conflict in even the most well-meaning legislation.
In order to truly move forward, it’s important that we consider all options for the betterment of our children, families and society in general. I won’t denounce the notion that teachers should have to inform parents about their child’s actions in school, but sadly, Texas doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to treating the LGBTQ population fairly. Looking beyond Texas, let’s not forget that our VP-elect, Mike Pence has supported the use of federal funding to treat people "seeking to change their sexual behavior," aka conversion therapy.
I can’t end this piece with any definitive answers. Sadly, we continue to live in an America where politicians push legislation that is meant to control under the guise of something that’s “good” for the country. History shows us that we should all be wary and vigilant about what we allow our government to dictate.
It’s one thing for a parent to go through their child’s diary, it’s much different to let the government do it first.