Ohio Bill Would Allow Schools to Out Transgender Students

By Roxanne Squires

COLUMBUS, Ohio — GOP lawmakers proposed a new bill that would allow Ohio schools to disclose to parents if their child exhibits signs of being transgender.

Republican Reps. Tom Brinkman and Paul Zeltwanger introduced House Bill 658 on May 15, which would require teachers to immediately notify parents if they observe any signs of “gender dysphoria” in their students.

The legislation states in its text that “if a government agent or entity has knowledge that a child under its care or supervision has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner opposite of the child’s biological sex, the government agent or entity with knowledge of that circumstance shall immediately notify, in writing, each of the child’s parents and the child’s guardian or custodian. The notice shall describe the total circumstances with reasonable specificity.”

Furthermore, the child can be placed into treatment with the parents’ written consent, which would provide educational material, counseling and/or medical services. Teachers would be charged with a fourth-degree felony if they attempted to provide students with sex and gender counseling resources without the parents’ permission.

The measure also defends parents or guardians who decide not to allow treatment by prohibiting that the decision be used against them in custody cases or abuse and neglect complaints. Rep. Brinkman stated that a child’s struggles with mental health surrounding gender dysphoria should be “a consideration that parents make,” but should not be reason for parents to lose their right to decide what they want for their child.

The bill was prompted by a recent Cincinnati case in which a Hamilton County court hearing granted custody of a transgender teen to his grandparents after the teen’s parents attempted to terminate his hormone therapy. In the case, the teen filed a complaint stating that he had contacted a crisis hotline to report that his parents had told him to kill himself and refused to let him get therapy “unless it was Christian-based.”

Brinkman, however, was opposed to this decision, arguing that parents have the right to decide what is best for their children, according to a report from a CNN affiliate, WCPO.

Critics say that the bill discriminates against transgender youth and lays ground for further discrimination, with the Ohio Education Association and LGBT rights group Equality Ohio strongly opposing the legislation. The groups believe that it puts the livelihood of transgender youth at risk, arguing that it would enable bullying and intolerance through the “outing” of students.

“Who is the judge of which gender is allowed to do what? If Jane signs up for shop class, will her parents receive a government letter?” Equality Ohio said in a statement. “If Jordan doesn’t want to play football, do his parents get a letter? What if Alex wants to attend a meeting of the student LGBTQ group — does the school email that to Alex’s parents?”

The conversation regarding the future of transgender students continues to emerge with another recent court case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a Pennsylvania school bathroom policy. The ruling found that transgender students would continue to be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identities in May.

A recent study showed that 64 percent of LGBT youth faced negative comments made by their families about being LGBT, while 18 percent of transgender people said their family was not supportive of their gender identity, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The NCTE also found that 54 percent of those who were out or perceived as transgender in K–12 were verbally harassed, along with nearly one-quarter (24 percent) physically attacked and 13 percent sexually assaulted in K–12 because of being transgender. Additionally, 17 percent of transgender youth said they faced such harsh mistreatment that they left a K–12 school while nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of people who were out or perceived as transgender in college or vocational school were verbally, physically or sexually harassed.

The bill in question has had its first committee hearing but hasn’t yet reached the House floor for a vote.

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