A controversial Georgia bill is back. It would prevent teachers from talking about gender in schools

Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the public packed into an upstairs room at the Georgia State Capitol this week to discuss a bill years in the making: Senate Bill 88

Republican state Sen. Carden Summers sponsored the legislation, bringing it before his chamber’s committee on education and youth. 

“If [kids] are going to be taught or talked about gender in the classrooms — under the age of 16 — a parent or guardian should be aware of the conversation,” he said about his bill. “A parent has a right to allow it, or not allow it.”

That is how the bill applies to private schools. For public schools, the bill would let local school boards make the rules for parental involvement. 

The senator’s bill has changed a lot over the years, and that is largely because of pushback. 

“Somebody said, “Well it’s a ‘don’t say gay bill,’” Summers continued. “Absolutely not — has nothing to do with that.”

Though dozens showed up at the hearing to speak about the bill, many were not allowed to testify because of a time limit placed on public comment. 

“This is the fourth public hearing that we’ve had,” said committee chair and Republican state Sen. Clint Dixon at the top of the meeting. “As far as testimony goes, I’m going to limit it to 15 minutes.”

Everyone who spoke at the hearing spoke in favor of the bill. 

“If it’s come around four times, it’s a problematic bill,” said Beverly Wynne, a Cobb County parent who attended the meeting, but was unable to speak in front of the committee.

Wynne opposes the bill wholesale, but believes S.B. 88 is especially dangerous for students who need to speak with their teachers about their gender identity, without their parents knowing. 

“Not every child is safe in their home,” Wynne continued. “There’s a significant portion of children who, if they do come out to their parents… are gonna be thrown out. Or they’re gonna be disowned, forced into conversation therapy, who knows what.”

Sen. Summers’ bill has cleared its first hurdle at the Capitol. It passed its initial vote along party lines.