Republican lawmakers are once again weighing a vehemently anti-LGBTQ+ bill that would harm public school students of all ages and all grade levels. The bill is seemingly modeled after Florida’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill (signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who seems to be running on a platform of anti-queer hate) but somehow manages to be even more extreme.
How so? Senate Bill 134, which was discussed during a Missouri Senate Education Workforce Development Committee hearing held on Tuesday morning, seeks to ban school contractor- and staff-led discussions (including from teachers, librarians, principals, and school nurses) of LGBTQ+ identities and orientations in public and charter schools, period. That ban would stand regardless of one’s age or year in school.
The only exception would be if the staff member is a mental health professional who also has explicit consent from the parent or guardian. If signed into law, this bill would (obviously) stop teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ history, identities, and books, as well as prevent LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual education in health classes. It could also be used to silence queer teachers and keep them in the closet.
RELATED: Conservatives have forms ready for parents to sign for youth to have an LGBTQ-free public education
“Gender identity and sexual orientation conversations would be prohibited,” Republican state Sen. Mike Moon told the Kansas City Star in an interview, adding if folks are wondering if a certain topic or discussion would be restricted under the law, “it likely will be.”
There are so, so many examples of what’s wrong with this bill, including but not limited to the welfare of all students. What happens if a student is being bullied or harassed because they have an openly LGBTQ+ sibling or parent? What if it’s something that can’t be “hidden,” even if they want it to be—a same-sex marriage, for example, or someone who is already openly queer?
And what happens if it's the student themself who is looking for support or a confidant as they question or explore their identity? There’s really no safety and reassurance left for already vulnerable youth if this heinous bill is actually signed into law.
“I think there are definitely concerns from parents that this indoctrination of gender ideology is happening in the schools,” Republican Andrew Koenig, who leads the committee, told local outlet News 4 in an interview.
But here’s the deal: In addition to being hateful, these folks are just wrong.
Teachers are not manipulating kids into being trans or queer. Books are not instructing kids to change their orientation. No one is encouraging first graders to seek surgeries. These points of hysteria are just that: hysteria. These arguments are not rooted in reality but rather in fear, misinformation, and debunked theories that apparently get conservative voters activated. But that doesn’t mean any of it is legitimate.
“For the sake of the reputation of the state of Missouri, and for the kids in the state,” Democratic Sen. Greg Razer, the only openly queer member of the Missouri Senate, said in part, according to STL Public Radio, “I hope that it goes no further than this hearing.”
True! See also: parents trying to flee Florida for the same reason.
“Censoring what students can share with school professionals will only endanger their lives and increase the risk they will harm themselves,” Andrew Schuerman, who represented the Missouri School Counselor Association, said during the hearing.
If signed into law, the bill would go into effect in August.