Indiana law requires schools to notify parents of changes in students’ gender identity

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill introduced in the Indiana Statehouse would require schools to notify parents if a student requests to change their gender identity, including their name and pronouns.

The proposal appears on the last page of Senate Bill 354, a school accreditation law.

Under the law, teachers and other school officials must notify parents if their child has requested a gender identity change, specifically by using a “name, dress, pronoun, title, or word to identify the student in a way that which does not match the student’s biological sex at birth.”

If the student notifies school officials of this type of change or questions their gender identity, the bill requires the school to notify the child’s parents within five business days.

The author of the bill, Senator Jeff Raatz, declined our request for an interview. He issued a statement saying, “Senate Bill 354 requires school districts only to notify a parent when their child has expressed conflicting feelings about gender identity or gender expression, and when the student asks for their name, changing their clothing or title to one that does not match their biological sex at birth. Parents should know when their child is struggling and should not be distracted from the situation.”

Some parents support the idea, arguing that it helps ensure transparency.

“Personally, I don’t mind if kids are transgender or gay,” said Lauren Freeman, who has two kids in elementary school. “I think it’s very important that parents get involved and know what’s going on with their child when they’re at school.”

But State Senator JD Ford (D-Indianapolis) sees it differently.

“It would turn off the students,” Ford said.

Ford said he was concerned about how the proposal could affect transgender children who are unwilling to share this information with their families.

“That’s the real impact this law is having on students in our state,” Ford said. “I just don’t think it’s going to matter. We have so much more to talk about and discuss.”

Another opponent, Indy Pride education director Jayne Walters, said she was troubled by this proposal and several other bills also focusing on gender identity.

“It shows people across the country that we don’t welcome them,” Walters said.

The bill must receive a hearing in committee to move forward. Raatz, the author of the bill, chairs the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, and as such makes decisions about which bills will be heard.

No hearing on the bill was scheduled until Monday.