Bill to prevent teachers, counselors from talking about gender issues fails in Georgia Senate

ATLANTA — A bill that would prevent teachers and school counselors from talking with students about gender or sexuality issues without parental consent failed to pass in Georgia Senate this week.

Cordele state Sen. Carden Summers introduced Senate Bill 222, which he called the Parents and Children’s Safety Act. This bill said teachers, school counselors, pastors, and anyone dealing with children under the age of 16, had to get parental consent before talking with them about gender or sexuality issues.

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.

On Wednesday, the measure was tabled after Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for Georgia Southern Baptists, testified that although he supports Summers’ aims, that Baptists objected to the language in the bill.

“We have heard from many folks, including our legal partners and activists from around the state, on this issue with this bill,” Griffin said. “We believe that this bill has dramatic unintended consequences for parental rights and for children in public schools as well. Those concerns have not all been addressed.”

All but one senator on the Senate Education and Youth Committee voted to table the measure, leaving LGBTQ advocates stunned at their good fortune.


Griffin said he and some other conservatives objected to language covering private schools and camps. The bill sought to exempt schools and camps run by religious institutions, but many religious schools are not directly part of a church.

He also said some lawyers who had examined the bill had concerns about setting the precedent of defining the concept of gender identity in state law. The bill defined gender identity in part as “actual or perceived sex and a person’s gender expression.”

Griffin said some lobbyists had offered language to Summers to address their concerns, but he did not accept it.

The bill would have mandated that local public school districts develop policies by Jan. 1 to make sure parents were notified of and involved with any discussions of gender identity. It also said public and private schools couldn’t change records of a child’s name, sex or gender without written permission from parents.

Violations could have been punished by cutting off state funds to schools, threatening to yank the state licenses of public school teachers and principals and revoking the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups.

Peter Isbister, the leader of the Georgia chapter of TransParentUSA, a nonprofit group that seeks to affirm transgender children, said he was “relieved and surprised” that the bill had failed. But he said he was still worried about antipathy to his transgender son.

“I don’t feel like I can really tell him what I did this morning, because I don’t want to tell him that there’s a world in which people are trying to make it harder and more hostile for kids like him in school,” Isbister said.

Committee Chairman Clint Dixon, a Buford Republican, said the measure is likely dead for the year. Senate bills had to be passed by committee and reach the Senate floor by 1 p.m. Wednesday to have a chance of passing the full Senate by Monday, Georgia’s deadline for legislation to pass its original chamber and “cross over” to the second chamber.

A separate bill that could be considered by the full Georgia Senate would ban most sex reassignment surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for those under 18. However, unlike laws adopted in some other states, it would still allow doctors to prescribe medicines to block puberty.

Jeff Graham, the executive director of LGBTQ Georgia Equality, said advocates are continuing to fight against the bill targeting gender-affirming care.

“There is no reason that gender identity should be singled out for special rules, regulations or policies,” Graham said. “And frankly, we’re still concerned that bringing up these bills, the number of bills, is causing harm to the mental health of LGBTQ students, especially transgender students here in Georgia.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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