ATLANTA — A Georgia lawmaker wants to prevent teachers and school counselors from talking with students about gender or sexuality issues without parental consent.
Critics say that takes away what could be a vital lifeline for students dealing with those issues.
This bill requires teachers, school counselors, pastors, and anyone dealing with children under the age of 16, to get parental consent before talking with them about gender or sexuality issues.
But critics say sometimes children can’t talk to their parents and need to talk to other adults.
“I know they’re people, all these people here to testify as far as this bill. I know they are,” said Cordele state Sen. Carden Summers in front of a packed senate committee hearing Tuesday.
Summers introduced his bill called the Parents and Children’s Safety Act.
He told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that the bill is for the safety of children, so adults won’t push their own views on them. He also believes it helps teachers.
“Teachers aren’t trained in general, you know. Math teachers aren’t trained in general to talk with your child about their gender,” Summers said.
But the proposed bill got a lot of pushback.
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“SB 88 would chill protected speech,” said ACLU of Georgia policy advocate Sarah Hunt-Blackwell.
Critics blasted the bill calling its language vague, stating it would prevent teachers and others from discussing a number of topics.
Others said many times, children dealing with gender or sexuality issues are afraid to talk to their parents, so they turn to a trusted adult instead.
“I think the bill is motivated by a lack of understanding coupled with politics,” said state Sen. Kim Jackson, who is Georgia’s first openly gay senator.
She believes Summers means well but doesn’t understand what many of these children go through even with their own families.
“We still live in a state where families put children out of their homes when they come out as gay or trans, and so there are many children, for good reason, who are not able to talk to their parents about their sexual orientation,” Jackson said.
The committee had to cut short the hearing Tuesday because it ran long, so there was no decision on whether to move the bill out of committee.
There will be another hearing and more testimony at another date.
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