PHOENIX — One of the first bills introduced in the upcoming legislative session attempts to prohibit teachers from addressing students by their preferred gender pronouns without first obtaining parental consent.
Senate Bill 1001 forbids school employees from using a pronoun that differs from a "student's biological sex" if they have not gotten written permission from the student's family.
State Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he introduced the bill with the intention of keeping parents informed of their child's welfare.
"I don't believe that parents should be kept in the dark when their kids are exhibiting this struggle..." Kavanagh said in a video posted online earlier this week.
The senator rejected the notion that teachers may withhold information in order to protect transgender students who have parents that wouldn't be accepting of their identity.
"That's absurd. That may be the case in a minute number of situations but overwhelmingly families are going to come together, support the child, try to deal with it..." Kavanagh said.
The senator said if there was a situation where a transgender student lived in an abusive home then the school could contact the Arizona Department of Child Safety to help intervene.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed across the country in recent years by parents who objected to schools addressing students by the child's preferred pronouns. Some schools in other states have begun implementing policies to prohibit teachers from using preferred pronouns without parental consent.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Education issued a notice announcing it would enforce Title XI's protections that prohibit discrimination against a student's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Arizona's proposed bill additionally prohibits a school from forcing an employee to address a student by their preferred pronouns if doing so would violate the employee's "religious or moral convictions."
A teacher in Chandler was fired in 2019 for allegedly discriminating against a transgender student and not addressing the child by their preferred pronouns.
Kavanagh said the proposed bill should not create too much of a burden on local schools and equated the bill's requirement as being the same as when a parent submits a permission slip for a field trip.
Though Kavanagh's party has maintained its majority in the Arizona Legislature, the Republicans may have trouble passing bills like SB1011 now that Gov. Katie Hobbs has the power to veto such legislation.
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