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Texas bills aim to eliminate topics of gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom

Austin (KXAN) — Two Texas bills filed ahead of the 88th legislative session would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, one until high school graduation. The two bills reflect Florida’s controversial law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by detractors, which bans discussion of topics from kindergarten through third grade.

HB 631, filed by Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), states that discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity is not allowed in the classroom from kindergarten through fifth grade. Meanwhile, HB 1155, filed by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), restricts discussion of these topics from kindergarten to eighth grade.

“When a parent wants to discuss sexuality with their child, that’s their role,” Toth told KXAN. “That’s not the role of public schools.”

“Are we talking about the history of heterosexuality? No. Just take the sex out of it,” he continued.

Both bills also require teachers to notify parents of changes in their child’s mental health and seek parental approval before enrolling them in any form of therapy at school.

“We have stories from teachers in my own school district where they said the child was gender dysphoric (and) the school district didn’t notify mom and dad,” Toth said.

Some Texas LGBTQ+ groups monitoring the bills call them “discriminatory” and say teachers should be allowed to create age-appropriate material about sexual orientation and gender.

“I don’t understand why anyone would want to treat something so ordinary as taboo. There is nothing PG-13 in the lives of LGBTQ Texans,” said Jonathan Gooch, director of communications for Equality Texas.

Gooch said the two bills are more extreme than the Florida law because they go even further.

“These bills prohibit this discussion until the fifth and even the eighth grade. And this is a time when young people are really starting to become self-aware and struggle with their identity,” Gooch said. “I think it’s especially important for LGBTQ youth to be able to have healthy conversations with their teachers and classmates about what being LGBTQ looks like.”

“Parents want their children to learn to treat others with dignity and respect. Therefore, it is important that they familiarize themselves with these ideas and understand that the families of different people will look different, ”continued Gooch.

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