BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPRPOUD) — Louisiana’s attempt at legislation commonly known as the Don’t Say Gay bill fell short in votes after a lengthy committee debate.
The bill by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, looked to ban educators from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to kids younger than 8th grade. It also would have kept them from talking about their own identities at all in K-12 classrooms.
Rep. Horton’s testimony caused some confusion about what the intent of the bill was. The two-page bill can be read here.
“This is about the teacher teaching the standard from when the bell rings to when the bell rings again when the classroom is over,” Rep. Horton said.
The bill did not mention the educational standards that are set by school boards and BESE. Rep. Horton emphasized she wanted to make sure teachers stayed on topic – and didn’t push any kind of so-called LGBTQ agenda.
“If there is a challenge with what you’re seeing out there, don’t you think that we can compose a curriculum that is age-appropriate and that complies with the standards that are set by BESE,” said Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer.
Advocates against the bill said outlawing the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation can teach kids it is wrong to be curious about themselves and those around them in relation to these topics. Some shared their own experiences of coming out to teachers when they were young and how important that was to them.
Rep. Beryl Amedee tried to address the language of the bill by adding a line stating teachers can’t deviate from the approval curricula standards. Some others on the committee felt this kind of issue should be left up to the local school boards to decide.
“I think our educational authorities have the ability to enforce that and to say okay you got back on track,” Rep. Stephanie Hilferty said.
The second half of the bill would prevent teachers from talking about their own identity and what Rep. Horton called “lifestyle choices.” If the bill were applied equally it would prevent straight teachers from talking about their spouses as well as queer teachers during class. Some agreed that teachers should not talk about their personal lives with students during class in general. Rep. Horton felt talking about sexual preference would not be age-appropriate and could influence children.
Advocates also touched on the research behind the high rates of anxiety and suicide in LGBTQ youth. They said the legislation would be a detriment to children who are still working out how they personally identify and may not have a safe place at home to talk about it.
A member of BESE came and spoke against the bill for the potential it would have had to stymie conversations around authors and figures of history that were LGTBQ.
“Our homosexual teachers will be fearful to display their own families lest a child ask them a question about their spouse,” BESE Member Dr. Belinda Davis said.
A number of amendments were attempted to focus the bill simply to make teachers stick to the standards set in the curriculum. In the end, the bill didn’t get enough votes to pass out of committee. It was a bipartisan vote of 4-7. For now, the topic of gender identity and sexual orientation taught in classrooms is over for the session.