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Indiana bill could impact LGTBQ students’ requests to change pronouns

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers are taking a closer look at an education bill that would impact LGBTQ students.

“The only things that schools should be worried about is making sure that students feel safe and listened to and actively engaged in being able to learn in the classroom,” Elazia Davison, a student at BELIEVE Circle City High School, said.

Senate Bill 354 would require public and charter schools to notify parents if their student makes a certain disclosure concerning their gender identity or gender expression to a school employee or staff.

They also need to notify parents if their student expresses a desire to change or request to change their name, attire, pronoun, title, or word to identify the student in a manner that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex at birth.

At BELIEVE Circle City High School, Davison is concerned about its impact.

“It can also become really dangerous because me with someone who has a very traditional parent. Both of my parents have been raised to think that just by being queer, me being a transman is something that is unacceptable and unright,” Davison said.

“You can never fully understand or be aware the way a parent or guardian might react to a certain situation, so potentially random teacher disclosing information that a student might have shared with a parent could potentially endanger that student’s life,” said Jawn Manning, the assistant principal at BELIEVE Circle City High School.

Manning says it can also impact students that seek help from their teachers.

“Of course we always want to communicate with our parents and let them know how their students are doing mentally and physically, emotionally and educationally, but we also want to be able to create boundaries and trust and a safe space for students,” Manning said.

The bill was authored by Republican state Sen. Jeff Raatz of Centerville.

“Senate Bill 354 simply requires school districts to notify a parent if their child has expressed conflicted feelings with gender identity or expression, as well as if the student asks to change their name, attire or title to one inconsistent with their biological sex at birth. Parents should know if their child is struggling and shouldn’t be kept from the situation.”

Republican state Sen. Jeff Raatz of Centerville

Democrat state Sen. J.D. Ford of Indianapolis is against the bill. “Testing scores, making sure that our kids read by the third grade. These are all things, ideas in our state that deserve our attention and filing these very pointed bills that really I don’t think have any business on the docket is disappointing,” Ford said.

In November 2018, Ford became the first openly gay man elected to the Indiana legislature. “When we have a slate of legislation that’s put forward that basically says you’re not welcomed here it causes people to think to themselves is this a state that loves me, trusts me, believes in me, or is this a state that doesn’t want me to exist and I really want those folks to know that as our only out serving member of the LGBTQ+ community that we love you, we want your brilliance,” Ford said.

The bill had its first reading Jan. 12.