South Dakota is considering a proposal to ban public schools from teaching elementary and middle school students about gender identity, an issue that has created controversy in schools and communities across the nation.
If the state passes the proposal, it will become the first to block such lessons in classrooms, with the bill cracking down on instruction to kids in grades kindergarten through seventh grade.
Mary Stadick Smith, a spokesperson with the state’s education department, told PBS that she’s not aware of any such lessons currently unfolding, The Associated Press reported.
But state Sen. Phil Jensen, who sponsored the bill, said that the concern is that this sort of instruction could eventually make its way into classrooms. Critics, such as Nathan Smith, public policy director at GLSEN, an LGBTQ rights group, believe the bill is “bad.”
The text of the bill, which is only a few lines in length, is relatively pointed, noting that it is intended to “prohibit certain gender identity instruction in public schools.”
“No instruction in gender identity or gender expression may be provided to any student in kindergarten through grade seven in any public school in the state,” the text reads.
Even if the bill passes the legislature, it would need to be signed by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who rejected a bill in 2016 that would have required transgender children to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological genders.
Daugaard has been quoted as questioning whether the legislature should be making changes to “standards of education,” leading to speculation surrounding how he might respond to this bill if it is indeed passed, as The AP noted.
It will be interesting to see what happens next, as the debate forges on.