California is deciding whether or not to require junior high and high school teachers to receive mandatory, bi-annual training on how to treat and affirm the identity of LGBT students. The California legislature is debating AB 493, also called the “Teachers: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning pupil resources and training [act].” On May 28th, it passed through the California Assembly with a vote of 61-0, since most Republicans opted not to vote. It has now been sent to the Senate for further consideration.
Last year, an identical bill, AB 2153, was debated and passed in the California legislature, but was subsequently vetoed by then Gov. Jerry Brown. In his statement explaining why he had decided to veto the bill, Gov. Brown cited the potential cost of the bill, and acknowledged that local school district can already implement these programs themselves if they deem them necessary. Gov. Brown stated, “If local schools find that more training or resources on this topic is needed… they have the flexibility to use their resources as they see best.”
Now, since California has elected a new Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who is more likely to sign the legislation, the bill has been brought back
Supporters of AB 493 say that the bill is needed to help reduce the number of LGBT students who report being bullied. According to one statistic, “64 percent of [LGBT] middle and high school students… reported being bullied. Nearly half had seriously considered suicide.” These are tragic numbers, and no one deserves to be bullied or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Scripture makes clear that we are all made in the image of God, and we all deserve to be treated as such. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (ESV)
Yet many are concerned about the negative ramifications this bill could have on teachers and students alike.
The California Family Council (CFC), a Focus-affiliated group, is one of the organizations that has been warning about the potential consequences of the bill. It would “require teachers to refer [LGBT] students to supportive LGBTQ activist organizations, provide them with LGBTQ peer groups, and create school-wide programs urging the study body to support the LGBTQ identities of students.”
This bill would specifically target Christian teachers who do not wish to promote beliefs that they disagree with.
For example, the CFC received concerning reports from teachers who had participated in LGBT training that is already being done. “Teachers who admitted their parents had a binary/biblical view of gender were told how wrong and backward those views were.”
In addition, one of the resources that is already being used to train teachers in the San Diego Unified School District encourages them to “Inform students and correct language when needed. Ensure that students are using language and terminology that is accurate and supportive of all students.” So teachers will be trained to “correct” students who use pronouns that refer to another student’s biological sex, rather than a chosen “gender identity.” The document also states that teachers should not “ask questions that may be harmful to students (i.e. assuming gender based on appearance and asking questions pertaining to that gender).”
Indeed, Raechel Olson, a first grade teacher who has participated in this training, recently testified in front of the California legislative committee. She said that she “was told to use preferred pronouns to address students, to stop referring to students by their biological genders as boys and girls, and to teach sexual orientation and various gender identities.”
Going through middle and high school can be a confusing time for young students. Though AB 493 seems to be promoted out of the intent to prevent bullying, it would likely add to the confusion that students already face. Rather than mandate that teachers receive bi-annual, one-size-fits-all LGBT training, California should trust teachers to treat students with respect, and address their situations on an individualized basis.
For those, especially California residents, who are concerned about AB 493 and wish to remain informed on this bill and other legislation, you can stay up to date by going to the California Family Council’s website.