A Texas state senator is denying accusations that a bill that she has sponsored would force schools to ‘out’ LGBTQ students.
Republican Texas Senator Konni Burton filed Senate Bill 242 on Thursday that states that a parent is entitled to all of a school district’s written records about their child’s “general physical, psychological or emotional well-being (except information related to child abuse).” School officials, including teachers, who are found to have violated the bill could face discipline. “An attempt by a school employee to conceal or encourage a child to withhold information is grounds for discipline.”
Some rights advocacy groups are opposing the bill because they say that it would require schools to disclose students’ sexual orientation, placing students’ at risk of backlash from intolerant parents. They also allege that the bill would place the relationship between school counselors and students at risk.
Equality Texas, a nonprofit organization that works to secure equal rights for the LGBTQ community issued a statement opposing the bill. Steven M. Rudman, Equality Texas board chairman, said in the statement:
“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. We believe Sen. Burton’s legislation would essentially destroy protected communications between a student and an educator. SB 242’s stated intent would force the outing of LGBTQ students.”
Some are concerned that the bill would open up LGBTQ students to being placed in ‘conversion therapy,’ the debunked form of ‘therapy’ used to attempt to convert gay people into become straight.
“That is an unfortunate interpretation,” said Elliott Griffin, the Senator Burton’s chief of staff. He added that nothing in the bill should be interpreted to mean that a child could be forced into conversion therapy. “I have no idea why they would draw that conclusion.”
Elliot said that the bill came about in response to the Fort Worth school district issuing new guidelines about transgender students, which triggered an uproar over parents’ loss of access to complete information, which is what some opponents point to in support of their argument.
Elliott also points to the fact that the bill does not place an affirmative duty on the part of school officials to report; that the requirement to give information only gets triggered if a parent asks an official. He said that the bill is silent on how the teacher would be required to respond if a student discloses his or her sexual orientation.
“We wouldn’t presume to tell an individual teacher what to do. If you call and ask about your child, you should have the expectation that the school isn’t going to withhold valuable information. It’s existing state law.”