The bill would protect parents’ rights to decide when, where, and how to discuss issues of gender identity & sexual orientation with their young children
HARRISBURG – Sens. Scott Martin (R-13) and Ryan Aument (R-36) announced their intent today to introduce a bill to address discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in Pennsylvania schools. The proposal is in response to concerns both senators have received from parents that age-inappropriate conversations about these sensitive topics are occurring prematurely and without parental knowledge in elementary school classrooms around the state.
“Some of these discussions that concerned parents have brought to our attention are formal and led by the teacher, while others are organic and initiated by students,” said both senators. “But many of these discussions are occurring without the knowledge or consent of the parents, and we believe this is wrong. Parents have a fundamental right to decide the educational, moral, ideological, and religious upbringing of their children without unreasonable government interference in the classroom undermining that right.”
Recognizing that their proposal would likely garner interest from parents and stakeholders across the Commonwealth, the senators published a webpage to answer questions about the language of the bill and dispel any myths or misunderstandings about its intent. According to the webpage and the cosponsor memo for the proposal would, among other things:
- Prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students, consistent with the timeline for when the existing academic standards on general sex education begins in sixth grade.
- Require adherence to existing state standards of age-appropriate content for any discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation that occur in grades 6-12.
- Prohibit a school from withholding information from parents in accordance with existing state and federal laws.
- Increase transparency by requiring public schools to develop a policy for notifying parents when there is a change to a student’s services or monitoring.
- Protect students in the LGBTQ community by providing critical exemptions if it can be reasonably demonstrated that parental notification would result in abuse or abandonment of a minor.
The senators were also careful to clarify that their bill would not ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Likewise, it would not prohibit teachers from having conversations or offering support services to students who are personally facing issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity and wish to address those issues with a school employee. Rather, the stated goal of the bill is to improve transparency and ensure parents have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about their own child’s education.
“While we recognize that safe, structured discussions about these topics are foundational to students of a mature age in the LGBTQ community, we also recognize that it is unlikely that all parents in a single school district will be able to reach a consensus on how and when to have these pivotal discussions with their young children,” said both senators. “We must work to find solutions that empower parents to educate their own children on these sensitive topics at their own pace without having their hand forced by the public school system. We believe our bill appropriately balances the needs of parents, children, and members of the LGBTQ community.”
“At the end of the day, we all have a vested interest in making sure our children are safe and grow to be happy and healthy,” they continued. “Therefore, we must all work together to find fair solutions that accommodate the needs of parents and children from different backgrounds.”
The senators plan to have language for the bill (Senate Bill 1278) introduced in the near future.
WEBPAGE: Empowering Families in Education Act
Stephanie Applegate 717-787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Terry Trego 717 787-6535 (Senator Martin)