Sunday, May 26, 2024

Teacher pens open letter to Governor to veto anti-transgender legislation

by BIZ Magazine

I am writing to you as a Louisiana teacher and concerned citizen to urge you to veto House Bill 466 and House Bill 81, both of which target educators and pose a significant threat to the safety, privacy, and dignity of transgender youth. These bills, if signed into law, would have far-reaching consequences for both trans students and their teachers.

Gov. Edwards, with the simple stroke of a pen, you have the power to be on the right side of history by upholding the dignity of educators and trans students in this state.

HB 466 silences educators by banning all discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity and mandating that school officials notify parents if students seek counseling regarding their gender identity. This requirement puts trans students at risk by coercing counselors and teachers to “out” them to their families without their consent. The repercussions of such an act can be dire, including family rejection, homelessness, and violence. 

Both HB 466 and HB 81 allow school employees to forcibly out and intentionally misgender students, even if the student requests otherwise. These bills not only violate the privacy and dignity of trans students by policing their identities but also harms our most vulnerable student population. Studies demonstrate that outing students without consent severely affects their mental health and well-being.

Trans youth already face higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than their cisgender peers. More than 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth experience symptoms of depression, and roughly 50% have “seriously considered” suicide in the past year (Trevor Project, 2023). Being forcibly outed exacerbates these risks. 

We must also recognize the unique role teachers, who are on the front lines of education, play in shaping students’ lives. As teachers, we have a moral obligation to prioritize the safety and well-being of all students. By creating welcoming classrooms and affirming the identities of all students, we have the potential to profoundly impact the lives of trans students. But these bills intentionally hinder our ability to uphold that sacred moral obligation. Louisiana schools must be safe spaces where all students can express their gender identity without facing discrimination or punishment for who they are.

As a proud teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School, I have witnessed the inspirational collective power of students opposing this legislation via student-initiated walkouts, letter-writing campaigns, and calling their representatives. I have also witnessed the intense sadness expressed by students who have watched these bills pass through the state legislature. These bills may be the product of a culture war for political points, but the harm it imposes on educators and students has real, material consequences. 

Kids across Louisiana are fighting with every fiber of their being, and now they need you more than ever to follow through. Vetoing these bills would demonstrate your commitment to equality, justice, and the well-being of all Louisianans, regardless of gender identity. I deeply implore you to move forward with making the right decision. 

Yours in education,

Chris Dier, a teacher [Ed.’s Note: Chris Dier is a teacher, author and PhD student in New Orleans. He is the 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and a 2020 National Teacher of the Year Finalist.]

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