Tennessee schools would have to out transgender students to parents under bill heading to governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee would join the ranks of states where public school employees have to out transgender students to their parents under a bill advancing in the Republican-supermajority Legislature.

GOP House lawmakers gave near-final passage to the bill on Monday, putting Tennessee just a few hurdles away from joining states such as Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana and North Carolina with similar laws. Virginia has such guidance for school boards, as well. The bill goes back for another vote in the Senate, which had already passed a version of it, before it can go to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

The bill’s progression comes as Tennessee Republican lawmakers have established the state as one of the most eager to pass policies aimed at the LGBTQ+ community as Republicans pursue legislation nationwide.

During Monday’s limited but heated House floor hearing, Democrats took turns alleging that their Republican colleagues were constantly finding new ways to bully LGBTQ+ kids.

“These are the most vulnerable kids in our state who are just trying to make it out of middle school alive,” said Democratic Rep. Aftyn Behn. “And we are weaponizing their identities instead of actually passing bills that help Tennesseans.”

Audible gasps could be heard from the public galleries when the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Littleton, argued that the legislation was needed so parents could know if their student would need therapy.

“I feel like the parents, they have the right to know what’s happening in the school with their children,” Littleton said. “And I also think that possibly they could get that child some therapy that could help them solve their problems and make their way through school.”

Littleton also confirmed she did not speak to any transgender students before introducing the proposal but said some teachers had told her that they did not want the responsibility of having such information.

According to the legislation that passed Monday, school employees would be required to pass on information about a student to an administrator, who would have to tell the parent. That includes a student asking for action to affirm their gender identity, such as using a different name or pronoun.

However, the bill also would allow parents or the state’s attorney general to sue if they felt the school district was not following this new law.

The proposal is just one of several targeting the LGBTQ+ community over the years.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Republicans passed a measure that would allow LGBTQ+ foster children to be placed with families that hold anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. Gov. Lee signed the bill into law last week. Lawmakers are still considering criminalizing adults who help minors receive gender-affirming care without parental consent.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Republicans have banned gender-affirming care for most minors, attempted to limit events where certain drag performers may appear, and allow, but not require, LGBTQ+ children to be placed with families that hold anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.

In schools, they already have approved legal protections for teachers who do not use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun, restricted transgender athletes, limited transgender students’ use of bathrooms aligning with their gender identity and allowed parents to opt students out of classroom conversations about gender and sexuality.


AP writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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