Wyoming Education Committee Splits & Kills
Parental rights in education have become a contentious subject in the last few years. Sex and gender identification education have led to book ban battles and curriculum scrutiny across the nation and our state.
This week, the Wyoming Legislature voted to split the Parental Rights in Education bill, which sought to eliminate the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity to young children, and also sought to mandate schools to inform parents of changes in their child’s overall health.
The first part of the bill was ultimately axed. It proposed not teaching sex and gender education to kindergarten through 3rd grade:
“No school district shall permit classroom instruction by teachers or any other person on sexual orientation and gender identity: For students in grades kindergarten through three; or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with standards established by the state board of education.”
The first part of the bill was cut due to questions over district-level control of curriculum policies, the Wyoming Department of Education determining standards for what age and developmentally appropriate meant, and the impacts such restrictions would have on teachers.
Sen. Bo Biteman (R-Ranchester) plans to introduce similar legislation nixing sexual orientation and gender identity education in the classroom in the 2024 session.
The second part of the bill included the parental notification piece, requiring schools to notify “a student's parent or guardian immediately if there is a change in the student's services or monitoring related to the student's mental, emotional or physical health or well-being and the school's ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student” (see the entire bill draft here).
The Parental Rights piece will be addressed in the November session.
Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) said on social media, “This bill had many constitutionality concerns. Regardless of how you feel about the content of the bill, a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional has no business being sponsored by a committee. We took an oath to our Constitution, not to Florida bills.”
The Legislature's move comes after several arguments across the state regarding access to sex education, gender identity, and LGTBQ reading materials.
Campbell County fired its Library Director in July, less than a day after she was asked to resign. No official reason was given for her dismissal. Still, the Public Library Board had asked Terri Lesley to resign due to her refusal to remove books for young adults on LGBTQ issues and sex education.
Efforts in Casper and Cody have been made to ban books containing such “explicit material.” Natrona County pushed back against book banning earlier this year when parents presented books they wished to be expunged from the library. The school board voted to keep the controversial books in the library in May.
In Cheyenne, the group Wyoming Families for Freedom is fighting book bans in Laramie County Schools.