Senate Committee Tables Bill Limiting Discussions of Gender Identity in Schools, Passes School Impact Fee Package, and Boundless Opportunity for Students Act
After PAGE and other education organizations expressed concern about the legislation’s conflict with educator child abuse reporting requirements and the bill’s reference to educators dressing in a “sexually provocative manner,” the sponsor of the Parents and Children Protection Act of 2023 returned to committee with an amended version of the legislation today.
The new version expressly states that nothing in it should be construed to negate Mandated Reporter obligations, and it contains no references to sexual orientation or educator attire. SB 88, sponsored by Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele), now requires each local school district to develop policies providing direction and guidance to school employees regarding parental involvement and child privacy on issues of gender identity. The policy must address:
Policies for school employees when addressing issues of gender identity
Policies for incorporating appropriate parental involvement when a student approaches employees while at school with questions about gender identity or when a student expresses a desire to present a gender identity other than that congruent with the student’s biological sex
Policies for parents regarding school employee initiation of conversations regarding gender identity
Policies for when school staff should refer students with gender identity questions to a school counselor, social worker, or other professional
The State Board of Education would publish guidance for implementation of the school system policy requirement.
The bill also requires that schools obtain parental permission before changing a student’s name, sex, or gender in official school records, and it contains penalties for violation including withholding school funds and loss of educator certification.
As with other recent Senate Education & Youth hearings, only a handful of those who signed up to speak on the bill were called to do so before the committee called for a vote. Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), moved to table the bill, and all but one member of the committee joined her. SB 88 is unlikely to meet Monday’s Crossover Day deadline, though its provisions could be included in amendments on other bills.
The committee approved three pieces of legislation, all of which move to Senate Rules:
The Boundless Opportunities for Georgia’s Children Act by Sen. Shawn Still (R-Norcross) would allow students to cross school district lines to attend public schools for which they are not zoned if space is available. They would take state Quality Basic Education funding with them, along with a portion of equalization funding their home district may receive due to the district’s low property tax wealth.
SB 208 and SR 189, both by Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming), propose a state constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, which would allow the levy of school impact fees for new residential development. Dolezal said the resolution and companion legislation are necessary in quickly growing areas of the state in which existing residents carry the burden to finance creation of new schools to serve families who purchase new construction.
House Approves Slate of Education Bills
The House approved the following education bills Wednesday. Each moves on for Senate consideration:
HB 51 by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn), allows school districts to transport students in vehicles other than school buses. Currently, this transportation option is open only to students experiencing homelessness and special education students. The bill passed unanimously.
HB 318 by Rep. Scott Hilton (R-Peachtree Corners), a bill Hilton has characterized as a charter school “clean up” bill, would rename the Charter Advisory Committee, the office responsible for supporting charter schools, the Office of District Flexibility and move the office to the State Charter Schools Commission (SCSC).
HB 338 by Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer) the Student Technology Protection Act, updates definitions of child pornography, content harmful to minors, obscene materials, and technology protection measures. The bill requires local districts to update internet acceptable-use policies, including setting appropriate measures for violation of the policies as well as creation of parent complaint processes for alleged violation of the policies. GaDOE will compile a list of vendors for internet filters in coordination with the Department of Administrative Services to assist districts with selecting the appropriate filters.
HB 402, also by Rep. Hilton, requires school districts to provide parents or guardians with information on the importance of water safety education courses and swimming lessons annually, beginning in the 2023-2024 school year electronically or by printed copy. The bill also requires districts to provide information about available swim instruction within school districts. Students who are 18 years or older will be provided the information directly. The bill passed the House unanimously.
Thursday, March 2 – Legislative Day 27
House Education 8:30 a.m., 415 CLOB
Monday, March 6 – Legislative Day 28/Crossover Day
Tuesday, March 7 – Legislative Day 29
Wednesday, March 8 – Legislative Day 30
Thursday, March 9 – Legislative Day 31