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Bill on teaching human sexuality and students' pronoun use heads to full Senate

House Bill 1608 would prohibit teachers from instructing kids in grades Pre-k to third grade on human sexuality.

INDIANAPOLIS — A proposed law that deals with what kids should be taught in the classroom when it comes to human sexuality and who should know if those kids want to use different pronouns at school is headed to the Senate floor. 

Lawmakers on the Senate’s Education and Career Development Committee heard House Bill 1608, authored by Rep. Michelle Davis, R-District 58. 

Lawmakers in the House voted to pass HB 1608 earlier in the session. 

The proposed law would prohibit teachers from instructing kids in grades Pre-k to third grade on human sexuality.  

Under Indiana law, students don’t learn about human sexuality until at least fifth grade and parents already have the option for their kids to opt out of that instruction. 

“House Bill 1608 is about transparency. It’s about getting parent involved so the parent knows what’s going and the parent is making decisions for the child,” Davis said. 

HB 1608 would also require schools to get written consent from parents if their child is asking to go by a different pronoun or name at school. 

The original bill required a school to notify parents of a child’s request to change names or pronouns only if the name and pronoun was different from the student's gender assigned at birth. 

Credit: WTHR

Sen. Stacey Donato, R-District 18, offered an amendment that required parents to give written consent of such a change, regardless of whether that requested change had anything to do with gender identity. 

The bill also requires parents who approve of their kids using a different name or pronoun, to alert the school at the beginning of the school year. 

Also, under the original bill, a teacher would not face discipline for refusing to use a student's requested name or pronoun. 

Donato's amendment changed that to require the refusal to come "out of a religious conviction." 

Davis has long said HB 1608 is about schools remaining transparent with parents. 

"Parents should not be cut out of the decision making and schools should not shield parents from knowledge about their child,” she said. 

Those who oppose the bill say it would silence LGBTQ+ students and their families. 

"To lawmakers, a ‘Don't Say Gay’ bill will not stop us from existing, but it would lead to an increase of bullying, harassment, self-harm and suicide among LGBTQ+ youth and families. A vote in support today assumes responsibility for these tragic outcomes. A vote in opposition would simply save lives,” one parent told the committee. 

HB 1608 passed out of committee by a vote of 9-4. 

It now heads to the full Senate, where other changes can be proposed.

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