New Bill Sparks Concern Over LGBTQ+ Rights
Governor Mike Dunleavy has presented an education bill to the state legislature that seeks to give parents greater control over their children’s education. However, the proposed legislation has elicited mixed reactions, with some advocating for expanded parental rights, while others believe it could harm LGBTQ and transgender students.
The bill includes a provision that would require teachers to obtain written consent from parents before using different names or gender pronouns for students. Parents would be able to sue schools that fail to comply with this requirement. Furthermore, the bill would mandate that schools separate restrooms based on the gender assigned at birth, provide students with access to individual restrooms, or implement other measures to ensure “safety and privacy.”
In an article by Alaska News Source, Andrew Satterfield, President of Alaska Parents’ Rights in Education, praised this provision, arguing that parents should have a say in any decision related to their child’s education. In addition, in the same article, Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council expressed support for the legislative proposal. He described it as a positive step toward ending “woke nonsense” in schools.
Despite this support, it is unlikely that the bill will become law in Alaska’s current legislature. Democratic Senator Loki Tobin, head of the Senate Education Committee, argued that the bill does not prioritize the needs of vulnerable students and is unlikely to receive a hearing if it comes before her committee.
Moreover, the Counsel for the Legislative Affairs Agency wrote in a memorandum that the bill would be at odds with the state’s constitutional privacy clause, which is one of the strongest in the country and has been notoriously used to defend abortion access across the states.
However, critics, including Planned Parenthood, have voiced concerns about several aspects of the legislation. For instance, they argue that allowing parents to selectively withhold information about a child’s physical, medical, or mental health could put some children at risk. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Rose O’Hara-Jolley emphasized the importance of providing safe spaces for all students, including those who may not feel comfortable confiding in their parents. In addition, according to Alaska Daily News, the bill was vehemently opposed during March 30 House’s Education Committee Hearing. ADN reported that, of the 119 Alaskans that spoke in the hearing, 103 rejected the bill and only 16 supported it. Among those rejecting was Apayauq Reitan, the first openly transgender woman to run the Iditarod.
This new parental rights bill comes in the wake of a nationwide movement of legislation that limits access to education, healthcare, and freedom of speech for LGBTQ people. According to PBS, just this year over 430 of these bills have been proposed and, in cases like Arkansas and Florida, have been passed. Arkansas Governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed a law that forces transgender people to use the school bathroom of their gender assigned at birth, and in Florida, the state restricted access to gender-affirming care.