SACRAMENTO—California Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) recently introduced a new bill that would require teachers to support and affirm the LGBTQ identities of their students.
Introduced in February, Assembly Bill 493 seeks to mandate that all teachers of pupils in grades 7 to 12 to go through annual training to learn how to better serve their LGBTQ students.
According to the bill’s author Assemblymember Gloria California needs AB 493 to address the high rates of harassment reported by LGBTQ identifying students.
However, this bill has received concern from members of the community. Greg Burt, director of Capitol Engagement at California Family Council, explained in an interview that “we are acknowledging that bullying and harassment for kids who identify as transgender is a real issue, we are just disagreeing with the solution.”
In a press release, California Family Council President Jonathan Keller said, “Every person is created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. This includes those who identify as LGBTQ as well as those with sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“AB 493 would unconstitutionally force every teacher and student to reject biological reality about sexuality and gender, and instead mandate the views of LGBTQ political activists as the only acceptable opinion. Sadly, Mr. Gloria is attempting to fight bullying by becoming a bully himself,” Keller continued.
While the bill aims to increase inclusivity for students who may identify as LGBTQ, the bill removes the rights and freedom of the teachers.
In a situation where a student requests to be addressed as a girl when the student is boy, but the teacher holds a binary view of gender, the question is then which belief should the teacher uphold.
Burt expressed that “If you are then forcing a teacher to deny their own personal beliefs and adhere to the students’ personal beliefs. We think that’s going to be an issue of violation of free speech.”
If passed, this bill will mandate regular training and tests for school teachers. Schools will also be required to provide online training at least once every two years, according to the bill text.
While AB 493 does not detail the topics to be covered in the mandated training, existing LGBTQ training programs in California schools are inviting outside groups such as Queerly Elementary to provide training and resources to teachers.
Regardless of the push from AB 493, some California schools are already implementing LGBTQ training and curriculums for their teachers.
Rocklin Academy recently approved of a LGBTQ base history and social studies curriculum for kindergarten through 5th grade students. Students will be taught about the gender identities and preferences of historical figures.
According to the San Diego School District website, the district runs a LGBTQIA Education and Advocacy program aimed at providing training, recourses, and guidelines to teachers on how to address LGBTQ issues in the classroom.
Some teachers of the San Diego School District raised concern over the treatment of teachers during these training.
According to a press release, “many times, we [teachers] were asked harsh questions and asked to raise our hands,” a first-grade teacher explained. Questions included, “Were you raised to only believe there are two genders? Did your parents ever discuss choices to you of gender?”
Teachers who admitted they grew up with a binary or biblical view of gender were told how wrong and backward those views were. “I was truly offended knowing my parents raised me in a solid Christian home,” the first-grade teacher wrote.
LGBTQ related policies remains a contentious issue among the California legislation and local communities.
While there has been an upsurge in the push for inclusiveness in the state, the community often disagrees with the “how” part of implementing policies on inclusivity without attaching political agendas.
AB 493 already passed the State Assembly after a third reading and has moved to the State Senate. As of June 10, the Senate Committee has postponed the hearing once and Assemblymember Gloria has now requested to cancel the scheduled senate hearing.
AB 493 continues to remain in the State Senate Education Committee awaiting a hearing to determine whether it can pass into law.
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Author: Cynthia Cai