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Pa. GOP legislators push for 'Parental Bill of Rights' in schools

The bill proposes a limit on teachings about sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools and notifies parents of changing school services for kids.

DOVER, Pa. — On Sept. 20, legislators gathered at the State Capitol to introduce what they call the “Parental Bill of Rights Legislation.” 

House Bill 2813 would prohibit teaching sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through 5th grade. The bill would also require schools to notify parents about changes in services provided for their child’s mental and physical well-being, such as if a child comes out to a staff member as gay or transgender.

Additionally, the bill would require classroom instruction to be age appropriate and the removal of books with "pornographic images and content."

The bill has the backing of religious leaders and GOP legislators, including State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.

“We’re acting like the state is the arbiter and decider, or some school union decides," said Mastriano. "No, they do not, the parents get to decide.”

The bill also has the backing of some parents like Michelle Lander, who is raising her frustration with the Dover Area School District’s handling of gender identity.

She says her child asked teachers to refer to them as a boy instead of a girl after questioning their gender identity. Lander says the district never told her.

“She was 12-years-old, she was struggling with a lot of things, and I had no idea," Lander said. 

She says the district's actions prevented her from seeking the help her child needed.

“Instead of encouraging her to talk to her family, they encouraged her to hide it, to lie about it, to keep it secret," Lander said. "Which put her in a position to handle such a huge topic and such a huge emotional stressor.”

The legislation is facing opposition from LGBTQ+ activists throughout the Commonwealth. Karen Foley with the Lancaster LGBTQ Coalition says the bill would cause damage to students questioning their identity.

“The 2022 Trevor Report already states that one in five trans and nonbinary children commit suicide," Foley said. 

She adds that students deserve to be in affirming schools that allow them to express themselves.

“All children deserve to see representation of themselves and be themselves at any age," she added. 

The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

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