(The Center Square) – The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that makes using transgender student pronouns optional for teachers.
Senate Bill 2231 would also ban schools and school districts from adopting policies regarding gender or offering professional development on gender issues.
“This is a back-to-the-basics bill,” said Rep. Lori VanWinkle, R-Minot. “We are returning to the required constitutional obligations as lawmakers regarding education. Teachers are also able to rest with relief that they only need to remember one pronoun and a set of historically recognized and biological pronouns.”
The bill does not ban teachers from using a student’s preferred gender pronoun.
Rep. Mary Schneider, R-Fargo, was the sole “no” vote when the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee. Much of the testimony was from school officials and mental health counselors who disagreed with the bill, she said during the House floor debate.
Melissa H. Burkland, a member of the Fargo Board of Education’s Government Affairs Committee, said the bill conflicts with their school district’s mission of educational justice.
“National research suggests that an overwhelming 75% of transgender youth have felt unsafe at school and are more likely to miss school out of concern for their own safety,” Burkland told the House Judiciary Committee. “Transgender students suffer from suicide ideation and attempts at far higher rates than their non-LGBTQ peers. All students–particularly our most vulnerable–deserve to learn in an environment free of sex-based harassment, all students should have the freedom to express and have the school honor gender identity, and all students should be addressed in accordance with their gender identity.”
Linda Thorson, state director for Concerned Women for America, said the forced use of gender pronouns conflicts with teachers’ rights to free speech.
“Policies that require a student to be referred to by gender, non-binary, or plural pronouns, or other gendered languages that are different from the student’s biological sex violate the religious belief that God assigns sex at conception and is a conflict for those unwilling to compromise their beliefs,” Thorson said in her testimony. “Teaching children about “preferred pronouns” steals valuable classroom instructional time and creates an undue burden on the instructor.”
The bill passed House by a 68-32 vote. The Senate approved the bill last month. It now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum for his consideration.