(KCAW/Tash Kimmel)
Note: Opinions expressed in commentary on KCAW are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by the station’s board, staff, or volunteers.

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. Nelson Mandela

Governor Dunleavy recently announced House Bill 105, which, on the surface, is intended to expand parental rights in education. But what it actually does is strip schools of their ability to educate, affirm, and protect trans and gender non-conforming youth who cannot safely share their identity with their families. It is the Governor’s contribution to a wave of transphobic legislation targeting LGBTQIA+ youth across the nation, and the effect is simple: targeting LGBTQIA+ children in Alaska and the spaces where they feel safe. 

If passed, HB 105 would require school employees to notify parents in writing if a student requests to be called by pronouns or a name that differs from those assigned at birth. In short, educators must choose between forcibly outing students and facing legal action (including the potential loss of employment). Outing someone against their will doesn’t just violate their legally-protected right to privacy; it also puts them at risk of hostility, rejection, and even violence from their parents or guardians. The governor seems to be using his previous experience as an educator to justify this bill, stating that “Research shows that involving families more in a child’s education leads to better relationships and improved educational outcomes for students, and this bill will do just that.” He has conveniently ignored the fact that research also shows that the presence of just one supportive adult figure in an LGBTQIA+ child’s life reduces suicide attempts by 40%. Many LGBTQIA+ youths have reason to fear their parents’ or guardians’ reaction to their gender identity or sexuality, and this bill ensures that they will find no safety at school either. 

Under this bill, parents would also need to provide written permission for their children to participate in any educational programs or classes involving sexual education and reproductive health. Again, the governor is risking the health and safety of Alaskan children in order to further his anti-LGBTQIA+ agenda. Comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education programs play a crucial role in keeping children safe. Studies have shown that these programs reduce rates of sexual activity, risky sexual behaviors, STIs, and unwanted pregnancy among youth, while also equipping younger children with the knowledge necessary to prevent, recognize, and report sexual abuse. And yes, they also teach age-appropriate information on sexual expression, orientation, and gender identity, equipping all children with the tools to understand their own identity, whatever that may be. As with all of the provisions in this bill, children from marginalized communities and those living in unsafe homes will suffer the most. 

Finally, the bill requires that students in Alaskan schools use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex recorded on their birth certificate, rather than to their gender identity. Again the governor wants us to believe that he is motivated by concerns for student safety or privacy, and again it is clear that his true motivation is ignorance, misinformation, and fear. Trans students do not pose a risk to their classmates, inside the bathroom or out of it, and this provision will force them to either reveal private medical information to their peers and teachers or risk breaking the rules and being punished and forcibly outed. This is an impossible choice for children who already face heightened risks of harassment and abuse from both their peers and adults.

All children deserve to feel safe and protected in school. It is our duty as Alaskans to stand up for the most vulnerable among us and to fight this bill at every step. 


The Trevor Project: Accepting Adults Reduce Suicide Attempts among LGBTQ Youth

ACLU: LGBTQ+ Youth and Outing

AGOG: Comprehensive Sexuality Education

ACLU Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills Have Nothing to Do With Privacy and Everything to Do with Fear and Hatred