At least four school districts in Indiana have flooded their communities with controversy in the past year by pushing radical transgender agendas. Now, state lawmakers are fighting back to clearly outline and protect parental rights.
Indiana state Rep. Jake Teshka and state Sen. Jeff Raatz, both Republicans, have introduced two bills that would forbid any Indiana public school from calling a student by a different-gendered name or personal pronouns without notifying the student’s parents.
Teshka’s bill would go one step further by requiring written permission from a parent and a letter from a licensed physician, and by forbidding any school district from compelling a staff member or student from referring to someone else with a specific name or pronoun.
Teshka’s legislation, HB 1346, specifically states that no Indiana public school may promote, encourage, require, or compel any staff to use a different set of pronouns or gendered names than those on a student’s birth certificate without express written permission from parents.
Raatz’s bill, SB 35, would require schools to notify parents immediately in the event a child indicated a desire to “change” his or her name or personal pronouns.
Among school districts that have raised concerns about parental rights with their transgender policies are New Prairie, South Madison Community, Hamilton Southeastern, and Indianapolis Public Schools.
Teshka criticized the cloak-and-dagger methods recently used by public schools both in Indiana and the nation at large for hiding “gender support plans” that secretly script out a student’s treatment preferences for gender dysphoria—to be kept between staff and the student without parental involvement, if the student wishes.
“In my district at New Prairie, parents discovered this gender support plan which would allow their children to change their pronouns and name at school without parental consent or even informing the parents,” Teshka said. “If it’s an issue with New Prairie schools, which is a smaller, more rural school corporation, it’s an issue everywhere.”
South Madison Community School Corporation in Pendleton, Indiana, has attempted similar measures. A Daily Signal report found not only a hidden transgender support policy, but a staff directive requiring teachers to withhold information from parents.
Progressive advocates claim that students should be allowed to keep issues such as gender dysphoria from their parents, because parents may be abusive. This argument falls flat—since any student suggesting to any staff member that abuse or neglect might occur is grounds for immediate, mandatory reporting actions in all 50 states.
In Indiana, the law states that any adult who suspects active or potential abuse at home notify the Department of Child Services immediately.
The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union argues that HB 1346 “… would place any student who simply doesn’t conform to those [harmful gender] stereotypes under a microscope.”
Katie Blair, the Indiana ACLU’s policy director, described Teshka’s bill as “a coordinated, hate-driven campaign to push trans people out of public life.”
Teshka, R-South Bend, told The Daily Signal that this simply isn’t true—that students who want to be called by different names and pronouns may do so with parental and medical permission. He noted the high attempted-suicide rate, 40%, among students claiming to be “transgender,” and cited the importance of parental involvement in treating a child with gender dysphoria.
The Biden administration and LGBTQ+ advocates claim that providing “gender-affirming care” via puberty blockers and rote affirmation is the best way to lower transgender suicide rates. However, a study and analysis by Jay Greene, a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, found that easing access to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones by minors without parental consent increases suicide rates.
Teshka condemned what he called “emotional blackmail” in which “… anyone who questions any of these ‘affirmation policies’ is immediately confronted by this idea that ‘You hate transgender youth because transgender youth are going to commit suicide [without] these policies.’”
“Suicide is nothing to throw around lightly,” the Indiana lawmaker said. “Instead of getting a kid into therapy and helping them through [gender dysphoria], the idea is that we can affirm them out of suicide ideation, whether that affirmation comes only in the form of social transition or jumping into medical transition. There is no real cognitive behavioral therapy going on for these kids. It is ‘affirm or nothing.’”
Teshka also warned that schools would be liable for withholding information from parents:
If we’re shifting the responsibility for these children to the administrators and faculty of the schools, then not only are [schools] going to be responsible for the things that they like, but the things that they don’t like. Schools would have to be prepared for the responsibility of that.
Asked why the bill’s additional requirement for a licensed medical professional to write their approval of a “gender change” to the school on behalf of the student (a unique factor in Indiana’s bill, compared to similar legislation in states such as Arizona), Teshka responded:
We want kids to get the help that they need, and that’s not going to happen in the school—that’s going to happen with [the child] sitting down with a mental health professional and actually coming up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
I believe there is a large social contagion aspect to this—kids wanting to find a way to fit in. By requiring medical documentation, we ensure that a child is truly struggling with dysphoria and that instead of self-diagnosing and self-treating, [students] are getting the help they need.
Local Indiana news outlets appear torn in their coverage of the bills. Although Fox 59’s Kristen Eskow and WTHR’s Cierra Putnam cited both supporters and critics of the bill, WISH TV’s Camilia Fernandez, Chalkbeat’s Aleksandra Appleton, and Indiana Capitol Chronicle’s Casey Smith chose only to cite critics, and only rarely the bills’ authors.
Of course, the Indiana State Teachers Association—the Indiana branch of the National Education Association—and Indiana Democrats have wasted no time lambasting the two bills.
State Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, claimed that bills such as Raatz’s, R-Middletown, would “out kids,” though no piece of the legislation requires students to share information about their gender request with anyone but their parents or legal guardians.
State lawmakers “have a slate of legislation that’s put forward that basically says you’re not welcomed here,” Ford also claimed. “It causes people to think to themselves … ‘This is a state that doesn’t want me to exist.’”
Teshka responded: “This is a bill that deals specifically with minors. If you’re over the age of 18 and you want to change your pronouns or even medically transition, I don’t believe that it’s the government’s place to step in and tell you that you can’t do that. So, [for] Indiana, I would never advocate for a policy that tells adults what they can and cannot do.”
Teshka summed up the necessity of his bill and other parents’ rights legislation by asking and answering a key question:
The question I often ask is, ‘Whose children are they? Are they the parents’ children or are they the state’s children?’ I think that while some of my Democrat colleagues will push back on that as a simplification, I think that to push policies that push parents out of the equation necessarily requires a fundamental belief that the parents don’t matter—and that the state is in charge of the child and the child’s future.
I don’t believe that, I believe that the parent is in charge. [Students] are their parents’ children.
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