Evansville LGBTQ leader addresses Indiana education bills

Evansville LGBTQ leader addresses Indiana education bills
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 10:48 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Last week, on the same day, the Indiana General Assembly had two bills dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity introduced.

House Bill 1608 and Senate Bill 413 were introduced on Jan. 19.

Both bills would prohibit instruction of anything dealing with sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.

For the House bill, it applies to students up to third grade, while for the Senate bill, it covers all grades from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Jerusha Van Camp, herself a lesbian mother of three, told 14 News that she finds the bills discriminatory.

“To tell a group of people that we don’t want to hear about your life, to try to erase us, to try to minimalize our opportunity to have the same thing as our heterosexual citizens is just an injustice,” she said.

When introducing the bill, Rep. Michelle Davis issued a statement that the goal of House Bill 1608 was “to empower Hoosier parents by reinforcing that they’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to introducing sensitive topics to their children.”

Van Camp said she understands wanting to guide your own child’s education, but she says certain topics shouldn’t be taboo.

“I think we have to talk to our kids about these things at age-appropriate levels, of course, but talking about the fact that there are different people is not a danger to children,” she said.

Senate Bill 413 also includes provisions that could require school staff to notify parents when a student seeks out social emotional, behavioral, mental and physical health services support and allow parents to deny consent to those services.

Van Camp said that could prove to be dangerous.

While the bill is aimed at maintaining parental control over what goes on at school, Van Camp said she worries about what could happen if an LGBTQ+ child is outed by school staff to parents who are unaccepting or abusive.

“To have someone expose that to parents could very much expose them to a dangerous situation,” she said. “There’s a high rate of homelessness among LGBT teens just because of this sort of thing.”

She said protecting children should be a top priority, and a learning environment that might accept them would go a long way.

“Research shows that if an LGBTQ teen has one supportive adult in their life, it can eliminate the risk of self-harm and death and mental health issues,” Van Camp said, quoting a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both bills have been introduced and were passed to their respective education committees in the State House and Senate.