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TW: This article contains details about depression and suicide that impacting gay students. To seek 2SLBTQ+ affirming mental health crisis support, visit Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860), the Trevor Project (call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678), or the LGBT Hotline (888-843-4564).
Oklahoma’s House State Powers Committee passed SB 615 on Tuesday, requiring schools to make sensitive information about a student’s sexual orientation available for review by a parent or guardian.
Years after the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S., conservative states seek to roll back progress on acceptance of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, even in the classroom.
Notably, SB 615 would require schools to allow parents or guardians to inspect “…any curriculum, materials, test, survey, questionnaire, activity, or instruction of any kind related to sexual orientation and gender identity…”
Authored by state Senator David Bullard (R-Durant) and state Rep. Danny Williams, the bill makes no exception for students living in homes with parents who may not approve of their sexuality.
“There aren’t words to convey the blend of fear and exhaustion that 2SLGBTQ+ Oklahomans are carrying right now,” Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Nicole McAfee stated in a press release. “This isn’t representative democracy, this is a full-scale attack on 2SLGBTQ+ Oklahomans, and it’s terrifying,” they added.
2SLGBTQ+ youth under attack in Oklahoma
Students who identify as gay, lesbian, trans, Two-Spirit or nonbinary already face higher rates of depression and suicide “because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society,” according to the Trevor Project.
The organization notes that gay and other LGBTQ youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers, and that disparity is even worse for Black and Hispanic LGBTQ youth.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bullard has claimed the bill wouldn’t require counselors or administrators to out students.
“The bill does not have a requirement of disclosure period. It does not have any requirement of disclosure so if a student comes in to talk to that counselor, they can talk to that counselor. They do not have to get consent from that counselor or stop the meeting,” Sen. David Bullard said in March, KOCO reported.
Freedom Oklahoma calls out bill targeting gay students
Yet the language of the bill clearly states than any survey, questionnaire, or meeting with a counselor on the topics of sexual identity or sexual orientation must be made available for review by a parent or guardian.
“While the legislature pats themselves on the back for the advancement of SB 1138, which claims to address bullying in schools, the simultaneous advancement of SB 615, which makes parents and guardians privy to any and all information between counselors and students, shows us that they have no interest in protecting the students most bullied and most vulnerable,” McAfee stated.
“None of this is acceptable. None of this should be normal. We have always been here. We belong here. Without the constant threat to our safety simply for living as our authentic selves,” they added.
SB 615 passed out of the committee by a 4-1 vote. The committee’s only Democrat, former educator and Tulsa Rep. John Waldron, voted against it.
Editor’s note: As a former youth shelter worker at Youth Services of Tulsa, this author has witnessed children enter the shelter and DHS custody because a parent refused to accept their sexual orientation/identity and kicked them out of the home.
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