JEFFERSON CITY, MO — (02-08-23) — Missouri lawmakers are once again moving forward with an anti-LGBTQ bill that would ban teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation at any grade level, no matter the class subject.

LGBTQ advocates are calling it more extreme than Florida’ “Don’t Say Gay” Law passed last year. The anti-LGBTQ bill is set to be heard next Tuesday by the Missouri Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.

Shira Berkowitz, senior director of policy and advocacy for PROMO Missouri, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights in Missouri, said the bill would stifle the visibility of LGBTQ students and parents.

“It’s a book ban. It’s a curriculum ban. And it encourages an environment of bullying,” said Berkowitz. Under the bill, Berkowitz said teachers would not be able to discuss any LGBTQ history or any book that involves LGBTQ people or topics. It would also prohibit LGBTQ parents from participating in their children’s school, Berkowitz said. “Principals or school personnel would be banned from discussing bullying or harassment that a student may endure, if at the root of that is because they’re gay or transgender,” said Berkowitz.

The Bill would “Limit any public or charter school staff member from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation unless they are a mental health care provider and have permission from a parent.”

It would go further than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law that passed last year. In Florida, the law prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, but Missouri’s does not specify a grade level.

The bill would prohibit LGBTQ teachers from discussing their spouses because it could indicate their sexual orientation. They say it could also ban books from being taught if they include LGBTQ characters or topics, and forbid discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in health classes.

Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon, the Ash Grove Republican pushing the latest anti-LGBTQ legislation, told reporters on Wednesday that the intention of the bill is to allow mental health professionals to counsel students instead of staff members who may not be trained properly.

When asked in an interview with The Kansas City Star, if the bill would be broad enough to prohibit LGBTQ teachers from discussing spouses and potentially ban certain books, Moon said it might… “Gender identity and sexual orientation conversations would be prohibited. If they think that would be included, then it likely will be,” said Moon.

Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer

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