OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There is confusion over a bill going through the State Senate that would require school counselors to alert parents in certain situation when sexual orientation and gender identity is discussed with students.
State law says that teachers and administrators have to disclose and make available to parents materials dealing with sexual education, specifically, those dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity. But a new bill wants to include school counselors on that list. It’s confusing Senators on both sides of the aisle
“Some schools have used counselor as a way to go around it so they don’t have to notify the parents about the sex education that they are doing,” said Sen. David Bullard
The Republican from Durant is talking about Senate Bill 615. It would require all curriculum and materials that will be used in a meeting with a school counselor on sexual behavior or attitudes to be available for inspection by parents and legal guardians.
“Parents need to know.” Said Bullard.
But there were serious concerns from Senators about the “outing” of a student when it was debated on the State Senate floor Wednesday.
“My concern is that we do not break that confidentiality agreement that we have with children,” said Sen. Brenda Stanley.
“If the student comes in, voluntarily talks to the counselor about whatever they are struggling with, then that is a discussion between the counselor and the student. Its when they bring them in to illicit a response and they hand them a material of some kind they have to have it open for them,” said Bullard.
“I think I’m more confused now than I was when I started my questioning,” said Sen. Carrie Hicks.
Senators are worried about the language of the bill.
“Because it’s in that listing any meeting would be subject to disclose to the parents and the superintendent, would it not?” said Sen. Kay Floyd.
“Thank you for the question, no,” said Bullard.
“I hope that is the author’s intent, but that’s not what this language says,” said Floyd.
Bullard faced tough questions from fellow Republicans.
“So, you do not see that it may stifle a 15-16 year old that may have some questions and they may have some issues that want to talk to somebody about. Now they wont because they don’t want their parents where they are at. Are you concerned about that?” said Sen. Casey Murdock of Felt.
“No, I’m not. That’s why we didn’t put a requirement to disclose in there,” said Bullard.
The measure passed the Senate 39-7. We went back to Bullard after the vote to get clarification.
“If the student goes into the office to talk to the counselor about whatever it might be, then that remains a conversation between the counselor and the student. What we want to make sure of is that if they give them material of some kind, the parents have access to that. But we do want to make sure that the discussion between the student and the counselor remains the discussion between them so that the student will feel comfortable going to that counselor,” said Bullard.
The title was struck on the bill and the author says more work will be done on the language of SB 615 if it comes back to the Senate from the House for final approval.