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Tennessee schools would be required to release transgender students to their parents under a bill heading to the governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee would join the ranks of states requiring public school employees to send transgender students home to their parents under a bill advancing in the supermajority Republican Legislature.

Republican House lawmakers gave the bill near final approval Monday, putting Tennessee just a few hurdles away from joining states like Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana and North Carolina with similar laws. Virginia also has similar guidelines for school boards. The bill goes back for another vote in the Senate, which has already passed a version of it, before it can go to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

The bill’s advancement comes as Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have portrayed the state as one of the most eager to adopt policies targeting the LGBTQ+ community as Republicans pursue legislation nationwide.

During Monday’s limited but heated hearing in the House of Representatives, Democrats took turns claiming that their Republican colleagues were constantly finding new ways to bully LGBTQ+ children.

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“These are the most vulnerable kids in our state just trying to get out of high school alive,” said Democratic Rep. Aftyn Behn. “And we are weaponizing their identity instead of actually passing bills that will help Tennesseans.”

Audibles could be heard from the public galleries as the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Mary Littleton, argued that the legislation was needed so parents could know if their student would need therapy.

“I feel like parents have a right to know what’s going on with their children at school,” Littleton said. “And I also think they can potentially give that child therapy that can help them work through their problems and get through school.”

Littleton also confirmed that she had not spoken to transgender students before introducing the proposal, but said some teachers had told her they did not want the responsibility of having such information.

Under the legislation passed Monday, school employees would have to provide information about a student to an administrator, who would have to tell the parent. That includes a student who requests action to affirm their gender identity, such as using a different name or pronoun.

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However, the bill would also allow parents or the attorney general to file a lawsuit if they felt the school district was not following this new law.

The proposal is just one of many that have targeted the LGBTQ+ community over the years.

Earlier this year, Republicans in Tennessee passed a measure that would allow LGBTQ+ foster children to be placed with families who hold anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. Gov. Lee signed the bill last week. Lawmakers are still considering criminalizing adults who help minors receive gender-affirming care without parental consent.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Tennessee have banned gender-affirming care for most minors, tried to limit events where certain transvestites might appear, and allowed, but did not require, LGBTQ+ children to be placed with families who hold anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.

In schools, they have already passed legal protections for teachers who do not use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun, restrict transgender athletes, restrict transgender students’ use of restrooms in accordance with their gender identity, and allow parents to exclude students from classroom conversations about gender and gender. sexuality.

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AP writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

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