The Missouri Senate could debate soon whether to ban public school employees from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation with students. The state Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee has voted in favor of a bill that would only exempt employees who are licensed mental health providers with prior permission from parents.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove.

State Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, is the chairman of the committee.

“I think what the intent is we don’t want teachers to actively participate in trying to change what the parents want that child to be or actively participate in that or indoctrinate either way,” said Koenig.

State Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, who is openly gay, said students need an adult they trust to talk to about their gender identity and sexual orientation.

“What this bill does is say, ‘Kids, if you have questions, keep your mouth shut. Just sit there, fall into a depression, do not go to anyone that’s an adult in the school that you trust,’” said Razer.

State Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said Republicans are taking a “heavy hand in intervening”.

“As lawmakers, we also have a responsibility to protect the well-being of children. My concern in some of the legislation that’s been discussed and proposed and now moving in the process is that we are elevating the rights over the parents over the well-being of children. I don’t know what the right balance is,” she said.

State Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said kids don’t know what they want and they are easily manipulated.

“When you have other forces that are manipulating them into making decisions that they have no clue whatsoever the detriment that it will create for their lives, ramifications that will never be fixed, it is incumbent upon us to pass laws to ensure that parents are the ones directing the well-being of their children,” said Brattin.

Senate Bill 134 would ban school employees from encouraging a student under the age of eighteen years old to adopt a gender identity or sexual orientation. It would not apply to certain course components of a school’s curriculum.

Under the bill, it would prohibit school workers from withholding information about a student’s gender identity from the student’s parent. A school employee must inform a student’s parent within 24 hours if the student expresses “confusion” about their gender identity or requests to use personal pronouns that differ from their sex as registered by their parent during enrollment.

Schools would be responsible for getting parental consent before “encouraging a student to wear certain items of clothing” and before allowing a student to use a name other than the name provided by the parent when registering the student for school. They would also be outlawed from encouraging a student to get medical treatment for a gender transition.

A teacher who violates these provisions would face charges of “incompetence, immorality, and neglect of duty” under the laws governing the discipline of teachers.

Parents and the Missouri attorney general could sue schools suspected of violating the provisions.

The Democrats on the committee opposed the bill. State Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, also voted against the legislation.

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