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South Dakota's lawmakers

Push to censor transgender issues

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For the second year in a row, South Dakota could be the first state legislature to push through an anti-LGBTQ bill in 2018, and it’s a brand new kind of attack reports Zack Ford, ThinkProgress.

The proposed bill would censor schools from discussing transgender issues until students are in eighth grade.

S.B. 160 is short. It adds the following to the state education code:

No instruction in gender identity or gender expression may be provided to any student in kindergarten through grade seven in any public school in the state.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Phil Jensen (R), believes the issues aren’t age-appropriate and actually argues that they could get in the way of learning other skills. “I think we need to be focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said.

The bill is a new spin on a series of “no promo homo” laws that are on the books in seven other states. These laws vary from state to state in the way they either prohibit discussing homosexuality in schools or dictate teaching that homosexuality is harmful or even against the law — even though sodomy laws have been unenforceable since the Supreme Court overturned them in 2003. South Dakota’s bill would be the first to extend such censorship to gender identity issues.

As GLSEN points out, several states have taken steps in the opposite direction, ensuring that schools respect transgender students. For example, when the Massachusetts Department of Education issued guidance in 2013 for protecting trans students, it included the recommendation that schools “incorporate education and training about trans and gender non-conforming into anti-bullying curriculum, students leadership trainings, and staff professional development.” Studies have repeatedly found that schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum have far lower rates of anti-LGBTQ bullying.