Indiana Senate Backs Bill on Student Names, Pronoun Changes

Indiana schools may soon be required to notify parents if their children request a name or pronoun change at school, after the state Senate on Monday advanced a House bill that some worry could out transgender kids to their families.

The Republican-dominated state Senate’s 37-12 vote came after intense committee hearings where residents derided the measure as an attack on the state’s LGBTQ+ students, especially trans youth.

Like Indiana, Republican-led legislatures around the country have been seeking to curb LGBTQ+ rights, especially in targeting transgender individuals’ everyday life — including sports, health care, workplaces and schools.

Under the Indiana bill, which the House first sent to the Senate in February, a school would have to provide written notification to a child’s parent or guardian within five business days of the child asking to be called a different “pronoun, title, or word.” Supporters say this approach would empower parents to choose how their children are raised.

“We know parents’ rights are important, and they need to know what’s going on in their child’s life at school,” Republican state Sen. Stacey Donato, one of the bill’s sponsors, said before Monday’s vote.

Protesters against the legislation, which originally resembled Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law enacted last year, often filled the Statehouse hallways this session with thunderous cheers of “No hate in our state” and “Kill the bill.”

“Growing up in an abusive home made it impossible for me to come out earlier, though I’ve known that I’m nonbinary since the age of 5,” Quinn Mackenzie, a 30-year-old Indiana resident, testified during a Senate education committee hearing last month. “I know we all like to believe that every parent is, I believe the words were, competent and good-intentioned. But that hope does not reflect the sad reality.”

The parental notification bill would also bar schools from from teaching “human sexuality” in pre-K through third grade. One of the bill’s authors, Republican state Rep. Michelle Davis, said this would put parents in control of “introducing sensitive topics to their children.”

But critics say the measure would inadvertently eliminate discussions about LGBTQ+ individuals in the classroom out of fear that such topics constitute “human sexuality,” which is not defined in the bill.

The proposal now returns to the state House chamber for a concurrence vote. If approved, the measure would then go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who recently signed a ban on all gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“I want you to know that this bill, in my opinion, does not protect children or parental rights,” Democratic state Sen. J.D. Ford, the Legislature’s only openly gay member, said Monday. “Our teachers care about our children, and it’s insulting to the entire profession to think to think that there is a conspiracy ... of teachers trying to secretly teach our young children anything that is age inappropriate.”

The Associated Press
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