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Tennessee Law Will Force Schools to Out Trans Students to Their Parents

“This law does not protect children and schools should not be forced to put children in danger,” an LGBTQ advocate said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee joins fellow governors for a press conference along the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border to discuss Operation Lone Star and border concerns on February 4, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Due to a law recently enacted by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), educators in the state will now be required to out transgender students to their parents. The legislation, Senate Bill 1810, mandates that schools notify parents if their child has expressed a desire to be addressed by a name or pronouns different from those listed on school records.

“Forcing teachers to out trans kids to their parents not only breaches the trust students have with their teachers but could also put them in dangerous and harmful situations,” LGBTQ legislative researcher Allison Chapman told Truthout.

Under this law, parents who believe they or their child have been affected by a violation of the law will be able to sue the school for damages and injunctive relief.

“We have a responsibility and an obligation to make sure schools are safe for children to learn in, and a part of that is to ensure that who they are and their identities are welcomed and are supported,” said Rep. Justin J. Pearson (D), adding that the bill is dangerous.

Tennessee now joins six other states — Idaho, North Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Alabama and North Carolina — in enacting laws that require parental notification when trans kids come out in school, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). Five other states promote, but do not require, educators outing transgender students to their parents.

“This law does not protect children and schools should not be forced to put children in danger,” Chapman said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned that outing transgender students can put them at risk of harm. “Forced outing bills are not about parents’ rights: they are designed to harm trans students,” Harper Seldin, staff attorney at the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU, said in 2023.

As Seldin pointed out, many transgender youths face rejection from their parents when they disclose their gender identity. According to a 2022 survey conducted by the Trevor Project, just 32 percent of transgender and nonbinary youths reported feeling that their home was a supportive and gender-affirming environment.

Data also shows that transgender individuals are at a higher risk of experiencing abuse from their immediate family due to their gender identity. Consequently, trans youth are disproportionately represented in foster care facilities, juvenile detention centers and homeless shelters. These elevated rates of familial rejection and abuse substantially elevate the likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance misuse and depression.

“Forced outing bills are meant to harm trans students, and in the process, hurt everyone,” Seldin said. “These kinds of laws don’t strengthen families; they just hurt kids, and especially trans youth.”

Senate Bill 1810 is one of 40 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in Tennessee this legislative session — seven of which have been passed into law so far. Over 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this session across the country.