Metro Weekly

Republicans Want to Take Trans Kids Away from Parents over Bathroom Violations

A Kentucky bill creates a new definition of "educational neglect" if parents fail to control the actions of their transgender children.

Bathroom stalls – Photo: David Tonelson, via Dreamstime

A proposed bill in Kentucky would remove transgender children from their parents’ custody if they are caught using bathrooms at school that don’t match their assigned sex at birth.

Sponsored by State Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Elkton), the measure does not explicitly mention transgender children or bathrooms. It does, however, refer to various provisions governing student conduct.

These include a “bathroom ban” that was passed last year as part of a sweeping anti-transgender bill that also banned access to gender-affirming care for minors, use of gender-affirming pronouns in school environments, and “Don’t Say Gay”-style prohibitions on classroom content. 

Under the existing law’s provisions, students are barred from using multi-user facilities that align with their gender identity, although they may request special accommodations for single-user facilities if they don’t feel comfortable using facilities matching their assigned sex at birth.

Students who violate the existing ban can already be disciplined or punished for “disruption of school activities.”

But under Petrie’s bill, the parents of students who fail to abide by the rules and use sex-segregated bathrooms can technically be labeled “child abusers.”

To achieve this, the proposed law adds an additional definition of what constitutes an “abused or neglected child.”

That definition declares that a child is considered “neglected” if a parent fails to provide them with “education, which shall include a parent’s failure to properly supervise, instruct, train, or control his or her child and that failure is a substantial contributing factor to the child’s violation of the school board’s code of acceptable behavior and discipline.”

As such, any transgender student who uses gender-affirming spaces when other children of the opposite biological sex are or might be present could see their parents charged with “neglect” for failing to control their child.

Children believed to be “educationally abused” in this manner and their parents will be forced to undergo a temporary removal hearing, after which a judge may choose to temporarily remove the child from their parent’s custody and, in some cases into the custody of the state.

If a judge finds that there is no evidence the child has been abused, an emergency custody order will be dissolved automatically, returning children to the care and control of their parents. 

The bill also contains a provision that parents who lose custody of their children will also lose all public financial benefits, such as welfare or food stamps, for example, being received on behalf of the child, and will not regain those benefits until the child returns to their custody.

Parents who fail to surrender those benefits to the state can be charged with contempt of court, meaning they could be fined anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and jailed from six to 12 months.

Trans rights activist Allison Chapman noted in a post on X that it was “easy to miss” the harm that Petrie’s bill could inflict on transgender youth and their families specifically because it does not explicitly mention the term “transgender,” instead referring to provisions contained in the omnibus bill, which Kentucky Republicans pushed through, overriding a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Seven families of transgender youth, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have sued the state over the ban on gender-affirming care.

Ironically, it was only in last year’s gubernatorial race that an anti-LGBTQ organization, the American Principles Project, ran a political ad meant to fire up Republican voters by claiming that Democrats would take away custody of their children for refusing to affirm their children’s gender identity or transgender status.

That now appears to have been a prime example of a psychological phenomenon known as projection — wherein a person or group falsely ascribes internal motives or thoughts to outside forces or groups, often in an effort to demonize or delegitimize them.

As it stands now, if Petrie’s bill passes, it is liberal and trans-supportive parents who may find their parental rights questioned or stripped away.

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