West Virginia Legislature introduced a controversial bill on February 10th, 2021, to remove essential teachings from public schools.
House Bill 2157 proposes eliminating any teachings of sexuality and forbids displays meant to promote understanding among all students related to such instructions in public schools. Although it doesn’t specify any particular group or sexuality in written form, it is widely known as an attempt to ban any mention of the LGBTQ+ community.
Delegate Dean Jeffries (R-Kanawha) sponsored the bill known as HB 2157, which would prohibit K-12 schools from allowing queer and transgender people to raise awareness of the true nature of such individuals who society has long held down by hatred and discrimination. The bill plans to bar any display of pro-LGBTQ+ subject matter, even if it has nothing to do with actual sex. The bill offers no guidance about what that specifically entails, but it likely applies to rainbow Pride flags, an affirming bulletin board, or “safe space” stickers, for instance.
Most LGBTQ+ members believe that passing a bill like this is detrimental to a community already struggling with depression and suicide. Sam Green, a transgender man, commented, “I don’t think that a lot of people in West Virginia are as educated about the transgender community as they should be.”
A bill has been introduced to the WV legislature that would eliminate sexuality teachings from public education. It would also forbid sexuality displays in public schools, such as #LGBTQ posters, flags, etc.
— Haley Kosik (@WOWKosik) February 22, 2021
While HB 2157 also does not specifically detail what such instruction might entail, West Virginia Del. Cody Thompson (D-Randolph) noted that schools do not “teach sexuality.” In a statement quoted by the local CBS affiliate WOWK, Thompson said that phrase could be interpreted in several ways by different school systems, potentially preventing vital, life-saving resources.
Note the popular claim that schools do not teach “sexuality.” Most LGBTQ+ materials are no different from schools teaching the differences between girls and boys, separating specific interests of males and females — without any focus on actual sex. In reality, human gender identities go beyond just male or female.
“The bill will actually prohibit welcoming displays from student-led organizations to proclaim acceptance for all,” said Thompson. “Many schools around our state have GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance] organizations that promote the unification of all students regardless of how they identify.”
That protrayal compares the bill similar to “No Promo Homo” laws currently on the books in five states, including Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, that prevent teachers from either discussing LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom or positively mentioning queer and trans people. South Carolina’s law, which was removed last year, forbade K-12 educators from discussing “homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.”
Fairness West Virginia, the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair and equal treatment of LGBTQ+ West Virginians, released a statement:
“House Bill 2157 is a bad bill that will harm all of our students. It was designed to silence teachers from showing any support to their LGBTQ students, but it’s written so broadly that it would likely also prevent health teachers from talking about teen pregnancy or ways to prevent the spread of STDs.”
The Fairness West Virginia organization mentioned how LGBTQ+ youth face some of the highest rates of bullying and harassment in the country. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 2017 data showing 30% of LGBTQ+ high school students attempted suicide in the past year. In 2020, the Fairness West Virginia survey revealed about 14% percent of those students skipped school out of fear for their safety.