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Teachers Required to Out Trans Students to Families Under Proposed Mississippi Bill

Pro-trans youth protestors with signs
Mississippi teachers would be required to out transgender children to their families under House Bill 176, which seven Republican lawmakers introduced on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. Human Rights Campaign Mississippi State Director Rob Hill called it “a very dangerous bill” in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press on Jan. 19, 2024. He is seen here, center, at a Feb. 15, 2023, rally against a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. File photo by Kayode Crown

Mississippi teachers would be legally required to out transgender children to their families under a proposed bill that seven Republicans introduced in the Mississippi House on Wednesday.

House Bill 176 would require educators to inform parents if their child identifies with pronouns or a gender that is not listed on their birth certificate and if they participate in “sex-segregated” activities “that do not align with the child’s sex assignment at birth.”

The bill also says school employees must notify parents and guardians if a child identifies as an animal, “extraterrestrial being” or inanimate object. There are no known incidents of Mississippi schoolchildren identifying as aliens or inanimate objects, but the idea of children identifying as animals may stem from an unsubstantiated urban myth about litter boxes that spread among Republican officials in recent years.

H.B. 176
Click above to read House Bill 176.

H.B. 176 would also prohibit teachers from referring to children by their preferred pronouns until their parents or guardians provide the school with written notice approving of the child’s pronouns.

‘Another Effort to Stigmatize and Isolate’

The Mississippi branch of the Human Rights Campaign keeps an eye on legislation that its leaders believe could help or harm LGBTQ+ Mississippians each year. HRC Mississippi Director Rob Hill said that if passed, H.B. 176 would be detrimental to LGBTQ+ children’s mental health.

“We’ve not seen this kind of bill in Mississippi before, and we hope that our leaders will resist another effort to stigmatize and isolate transgender and nonbinary youth and their peers,” he told the Mississippi Free Press this morning.

Mississippi lawmakers have approved and Gov. Tate Reeves has signed several bills targeting transgender children in recent years, including a 2021 law banning transgender children from participating on school sports teams that match their gender identities and a 2023 law prohibiting minors from obtaining gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers.

Hill encouraged lawmakers to look at mental health and suicide statistics for LGBTQ+ youth before voting on H.B. 176. Teachers should also call their local representative and tell them not to vote for the bill, the state HRC director added.

“This is a very dangerous bill. It’s dangerous for the lives of youth … and it further perpetuates Mississippi’s image of being a place of discrimination,” Hill said.

The Trevor Project’s data shows that 82% of transgender people have had suicidal thoughts, 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide and LGBTQ+ children are 2.5 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than their peers who are straight and cisgender.

Schools should be a safe and happy place for all students, Hill said, adding that many LGBTQ+ students may feel safer at school than at home because they are around peers who are similar to them and teachers who treat them with respect.

No Vote Yet Planned For H.B. 176

The six other representatives cosponsoring H.B. 176 with Rep. Charles Blackwell include Reps. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville; Randy P. Boyd, R-Mantachie; Larry Byrd, R-Petal; Dan Eubanks, R-Walls; Jimmy Fondren, R-Pascagoula; and Donnie Scoggin, R-Ellisville.

Headshots of the Seven MS State Representatives that signed HB 176
Rep. Charles Blackwell introduced H.B. 176 to require teachers to out transgender students to their families along with six Republican cosponsors. Graphic MFP

The Mississippi Free Press asked the seven sponsors for interviews but did not receive any replies by press time.

House Bill 176 has been referred to the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Rob Roberson, R-Starkville. At present, the committee has not advanced it to the House floor for a vote among all representatives. If that did happen, it would still need to earn a vote and approval on the Senate floor and the governor’s signature before it could become law.

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