Wisconsin lawmakers introduced Bill 562 on Sept. 15, which would a require schools to notify parents before providing any program related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Under the bill, parents could choose to opt their children out of such programs.
Registered supporters of the bill include the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and the Wisconsin Family Action, according to the Wisconsin Public Radio.
Proponents of the bill claim that parents know what’s best for their children, and accordingly, they should have the choice to opt-out.
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Opponents, however, claim the bill would eliminate one of the only ways that LGBTQ+ kids might learn about gender identities, according to WPR.
If signed into law, the bill would add to an already restrictive sex education curriculum in Wisconsin, which tends to stress abstinence, according to the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States.
Bill 562 defines a program as including “instruction and materials as well as any test, survey, questionnaire for other activity.” The bill defines gender as “either of the two sexes, male or female.”
Wisconsin is one of 39 states that stresses abstinence if sex education is taught in schools at all, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Sex education, however, is not mandated in Wisconsin, which is one of 18 states that does not require such curriculums — if taught — to be medically accurate.
But the bill is already facing opposition from Gov. Tony Evers, the State Department of Public Instruction and advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and victims of sexual assault, according to WPR.
State Superintendent Jill Underly made a statement, saying the bill attempts to undermine public education and that it’s “controversial, misguided, and unexamined.”
Several local officials have also weighed in on the bill, including District 8 Ald. Juliana Bennett and Nada Elmikashfi, the chief of staff for State Representative Francesca Hong (D-Madison).
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“All the GOP intends to do is harm our children — their transphobia and homophobia are emboldened every day,” Elmikashfi said in a tweet. “This bill is absolute garbage, and the process in which legislators are using to push it through is blatantly undemocratic. We gotta fight it.”
Studies gathered by the Journal of Adolescent Health show curricula designed to counteract homophobia have been successful across multiple grade levels under a variety of approaches, and that having sex education and health classes that are LGBTQ+ inclusive have positive effects on school climates.
In her statement, Underly called on legislators to consider how their political agenda is affecting children.
“Our children also deserve legislative leaders who will prioritize their health and their learning, instead of playing political games,” Underly said.