Little signs pronouns bill

Idaho school districts soon will have to remove any requirements that teachers use transgender students’ preferred pronouns. 

Gov. Brad Little quietly signed House Bill 538 Monday. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ted Hill, R-Eagle, broadly enacts protections for public employees, including teachers, who are unwilling to use someone’s preferred name and pronouns. It had overwhelming support among Statehouse Republicans. 

The bill bars teachers from referring to a student by a name or pronoun that doesn’t align with their birth sex, unless the teacher has parental consent. It also gives teachers the right to sue their district if they’re disciplined for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred name or pronoun.

Little “supports policies that advance free speech and parental rights,” and “this bill does both,” Madison Hardy, the governor’s spokeswoman, said by email. “While Gov. Little expects state employees to treat each other and members of the community with dignity and respect, he does not support government compelling speech at risk of penalty or excluding parents from significant decisions impacting a child’s health and wellbeing.”  

The new law — which takes effect July 1 — impacts students and public employees who are transgender but also others who don’t identify with a traditional male-female binary.

The Idaho Family Policy Center, a Christian lobbying group, praised Little for signing the bill that shields teachers from “adverse employment action” for using “biologically correct pronouns.”

“Even in school districts with no written compelled pronoun policy, educators feel pressure from administrators, parents and students to use preferred pronouns,” Blaine Conzatti, president of the group, said in a news release, “and these teachers rightly fear what might happen if they continue disregarding such demands.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho lobbied against the bill in recent months, arguing that it would allow teachers to “persistently and intentionally” misgender certain students and it could violate anti-discrimination law.

As of Tuesday morning, Little had yet to take action on two other high-profile education bills. House Bill 710 would make school and public libraries liable for lawsuits stemming from “harmful” book challenges. House Bill 766 would make major changes to a school facilities funding bill already signed into law.

Little’s deadline to sign or veto these two bills is 10:17 a.m. Wednesday. The House and Senate are scheduled to meet shortly after the deadline, returning from a week’s recess. It is possible the Legislature will adjourn for the year on Wednesday.

Ryan Suppe

Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business for newspapers in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho. A Nevada native, Ryan enjoys golf, skiing and movies. Follow him on Twitter: @ryansuppe. Contact him at [email protected]

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