Texas Republicans are really uncomfortable with LGBT kids.
First, they blocked a federal order to allow trans students in public schools to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Now, they want teachers to out LGBT students to their parents, with or without the student’s consent.
Sen. Konni Burton introduced a bill on Thursday – which just so happened to be national Transgender Day of Remembrance – that would require public schools give parents "any general knowledge regarding the parent's child possessed by an employee of the district” and records "relating to the child’s general physical, psychological or emotional well-being."
This may sound vague — and even harmless. But Burton has explicitly said this is a response to guidelines adopted by Fort Worth school district earlier this year, guidelines that banned staff from telling parents about their child's transgender status. The rule was quickly extinguished by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas' leader in anti-LGBT policies.
According to LGBT rights groups, Burton's bill is a direct attack on a vulnerable population: LGBT kids who aren't ready to come out to their parents — but want to talk about it with someone they trust. In many cases, that's a school counselor.
“What she’s proposed would destroy any productive communication between a student and a school counselor,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. "It would take away a counselor’s ability to do their job.”
In public schools, a counselor’s job is to do the opposite of what Burton’s bill suggests: Provide a safe and confidential space for students to express their emotions. If passed, this bill would effectively erase every child’s right to confide in a counselor, teacher or nurse.
Burton has said her bill will protect a parent’s “right to know” or “right to matter” in their child’s life. But what she’s suggesting could instead force public schools to knowingly enable an abusive parent.
"If your kid is gay, and can tell his teacher, but hasn’t told you, then you are the problem," said Steve Rudner, Equality Texas board chair. "If a kid can tell a teacher but not their parent, it is a pretty good indication that your child is scared of you and the consequences of telling you, and you are who the kid needs to be protected from."
Nearly half of the country’s homeless population who are under the age 18 identify as LGBT — often a result of being kicked out the house from an intolerant parent. Hundreds of other parents banish their LGBT children to a "reparative therapy” program until they are 18. In fact, this wildly discredited conversion “therapy” is still a piece of the state’s GOP platform. If they’re lucky enough to stay at home, other kids may just fall victim to child abuse — a statewide problem Texas officials openly admit to not handling well.
“Until children stop being beaten up for being gay or being kicked out of their home for being gay, we have a responsibility to protect them,” Smith said.
This bill comes on the heels of Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick announcing his interest in a bill that will block all trans Texans from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity under the guise of protecting women's privacy. Paired with Patrick's bill, Burton’s “right to know” measure may just be the kick-off to an aggressively anti-LGBT legislative session.