Last week the New Hampshire Senate voted to pass a bill that would potentially put LGBTQ+ youth in danger. Fortunately, with only one vote to spare, today the New Hampshire House chose to table the bill. But, with more than half of the session left to go, there are numerous ways that these bills could still pass.
Here’s why we’re so concerned.
Under the guise of “parent’s rights,” the New Hampshire legislature is considering two bills – SB 272 and HB 10 – that would require school personnel (broadly defined) to inform parents when their child is being identified by a different name, gender, or pronouns than those used when they were initially enrolled and to inform parents about the extracurricular activities, clubs, or organizations in which their student participates.
Let’s be clear, this is not about ensuring parents can know the name their child picked for German class or whether their kid is on the yearbook committee. This is about forcing teachers and other school staff to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents regardless of any danger that such a disclosure could bring to the child. SB 272 and HB 10 are unconscionable.
While the bills’ proponents may say that they do not want to undermine children's safety, here are the facts. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, “only 24% of LGBTQ youth can 'definitely' be themselves as an LGBTQ person at home.” School may be the only place where they feel safe expressing their authentic selves.
The same holds true concerning the ability to explore one’s identity by participating in clubs like Gender and Sexualities Alliances (GSAs). Research has found that GSAs have had a demonstrated positive effect on students’ mental health and sense of self-empowerment and that compared to LGBTQ students who do not have a GSA in their school, students with access to a GSA were less likely to: hear negative remarks about gender expression or being transgender, feel unsafe about their identity, or miss school because of safety concerns. Moreover, students with access to GSAs experience lower levels of victimization related to their identity and report a greater sense of belonging to their school community.
Forcing teachers and other school staff to inform students’ parents about their child’s pronouns or GSA involvement will put LGBTQ+ students at further risk of isolation.
Ironically, these bills would also undermine the New Hampshire Department of Education’s “One Trusted Adult” campaign, which lets students know that if they say something to a teacher, they can trust the teacher will keep it confidential and support the student. These bills make it clear that the teacher cannot keep information confidential about a student's gender, even if the student isn’t ready to have that conversation with their parents. Legislators should trust its educators and ensure gender diverse youth can be treated with dignity and respect.
Our schools should protect all students, including LGBTQ+ students, so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment as their most authentic selves. Please, make your voice heard – tell your Senator and Representative(s) to protect the safety of LGBTQ+ youth by opposing HB 10 and SB 272.