Posted Mar 17, 2022, 6:50 am
A GOP bill that would have forced teachers to out LGBTQ students
was amended in the Senate Education Committee Tuesday to remove that
language, but still faced criticism from Democratic lawmakers.
“I want to make it loud and clear this was no way an attack on (the LGBTQ) community,” Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, sponsor of House Bill 2161, told the committee.
The bill in its current form prohibits a school, political
subdivision or government from “usurping the fundamental right” of a
parent in raising their children, allows a parent to bring a civil suit
against any government entity or official that violates the Parent’s
Bill of Rights, gives parents the rights to all written or electronic
records from a school including a students counseling records, and
requires schools to notify parents before a survey is conducted of
students, among other changes.
Supporters of the bill said it was necessary to punish teachers in
order to bring transparency to schools, which they said have been asking
“inappropriate questions.” The main aim of the legislation is to reign
in surveys sent out by schools that have made headlines in a number of states and locally.
The language that was removed from the bill would have made it
illegal for a government employee to withhold information that is
“relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the parent’s
child,” and specifically prevents teachers from withholding information
about a student’s “purported gender identity” or a request to transition
to a gender other than the “student’s biological sex.”
The bill would have allowed parents to sue school districts if teachers didn’t comply.
Members of LGBTQ community
criticized the bill, one of several in the legislature this year that
they view as an attack on the community. Kaiser admitted to working on
the bill with anti-LGBTQ advocacy groups, chief among them the Center
for Arizona Policy, a Christian lobbying organization that routinely
advocates for social conservative legislation at the Capitol.
CAP holds sway with most Republican lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey, and is widely considered one of the most powerful lobbying groups at the state Capitol.
Another stakeholder that Kaiser consulted is Family Watch International, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
“This has got the potential for a little bit of chaos,” Sen.
Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, D-Tucson, said of the bill. “(Teachers) have
been hammered so they are going to err on the side of extreme caution on
For Stahl Hamilton, her concerns lay with another portion of the bill
which states that the state or a political subdivision of the state
shall not “interfere with or usurp the fundamental right of parents to
direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their
Stahl Hamilton and some of her Democratic colleagues worried that the
language of “usurp the fundamental right” was too vague and could
affect not just teachers but other parts of the education process and
create larger issues.
Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, said she was concerned that a
librarian who may suggest a book with which a parent may later disagree
could be sued by a parent under the language of the bill.
“If that librarian is offering that book to a child … we would want
the parents to be involved with that child,” Kaiser said in response,
saying that the bill’s intent is to have parents informed.
Cathi Herrod, the president of CAP, during her testimony to the
committee said that some of the examples given by Democratic lawmakers
could likely be thrown out as “frivolous” and that the bill is needed in
order to address “invasive” surveys.
The bill cleared committee along party lines and will head to the
full Senate. It has already passed out of the House, also along party
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