INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — Republican Governor Eric Holcomb on Thursday signed into law new rules that restrict the discussion of human sexuality in the classroom and require schools to tell parents when students wish to change their name or pronouns.
The law, House Enrolled Act 1608, contains two main provisions. The first bans instruction of human sexuality in schools prior to fourth grade.
The second provision requires schools to tell parents when a student asks to be called by a different name or pronoun at school. While the original bill required parental consent for such a change, that language was stripped in the final version signed by Holcomb.
Indiana does not require sex ed for students, instead leaving the decision to schools. HEA 1608 does not define what constitutes human sexuality.
In a statement, Holcomb championed both provisions.
“I believe in parental rights," Holcomb said. HEA 1608 "involves parents in their child’s away-from-home life."
It was "common sense," Holcomb added, that sex ed should not be taught before fourth grade.
HEA 1608 does include some important carve-outs for school speech. Under the law, school staffers and teachers can still answer questions from students about topics related to sexuality.
There's another carve-out for school counselors and psychologists, who are not required to disclose confidential information obtained from a student.
Still, HEA 1608 comes just a month after Holcomb signed into law a ban on most forms of gender-affirming care for minors, including hormone treatments, puberty blockers and surgeries.
That law, SB 480, threatens physicians with discipline from the state’s medical oversight board if they violate the new rules.
The ACLU of Indiana has condemned HEA 1608 and warned of a possible legal challenge. The group has already sued to block SB 480, with a hearing in that case slated for June.
In a Twitter post, the ACLU of Indiana said HEA 1608 would “erase LGTBQ, voices, histories and lived experiences from schools.” It also warned that the law's vague definition of human sexuality could be used to silence LGTBQ+ people or fire teachers.
“Not every child can be their true selves at home without risking their physical or emotional well-being," Katie Blair, public-policy director for ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement. "For trans youth, especially those who cannot be safe at home, school may be one of the few places to be themselves."
"Trans youth thrive when they are affirmed in their gender identity," she added, "which includes being called by a name and pronouns that reflect who they are."
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