Bill Banning Instruction on Gender Dysphoria Moves Forward

Feb 6, 2019

Representative Tom Pischke of District 25 is the prime house sponsor of HB 1108.
Credit SDLRC

The House Education Committee passes a bill banning instruction on gender dysphoria to the house floor, despite confusion on what the phrase means. House bill 1108 prohibits instruction on the issue to public school students from kindergarten to seventh grade. 

House Bill 1108 originally prohibited instruction on gender identity and expression. Later, the bill was amended to remove those phrases and instead prohibit instruction on gender dysphoria.

The American Psychiatric Association describes gender dysphoria as a feeling of discomfort when a person’s identity conflicts with the gender they’re assigned by others. During Wednesday morning’s committee meeting, the bill’s supporters cited parental concerns that their children were being confused about their identities due to things they hear in school.

Representative Tom Pischke is the bill’s prime house sponsor. He says this bill is meant to ensure schools aren’t confusing young children.

“I’ve heard as discussions have proceeded in this bill, some opponents say, ‘Is this a problem in South Dakota, why bring this bill?’ Well I can’t point to anything specifically in South Dakota, but as you look across the nation there’s multiple signs this is coming,” says Pischke.

After the committee passes the amendment changing the bill’s language, Representative Fred Deutsch expresses confusion on the meaning of the key phrase.

“I mean, a kindergartner, you’re not gonna talk about dysphoria. I don’t think teachers understand what that means, let alone legislators!” he says.

Other legislators are concerned the bill oversteps their duties. Representative Jess Olson says as the mother of a second-grader, she wants discussion of gender to happen at home. However, she thinks there is already a process in place for parents with concerns.

“If there are issues, first go to your school principal, the teacher. If this was something my child was coming home and asking me about, I would be addressing it with the teacher, the principal," says Olson. "If that was not remedied, the school board. But I think we’re ahead of the problem. Not everything is a nail even if you have a hammer.”

After a motion to kill the bill by sending it to the 41st day fails, the committee passes House Bill 1108 as amended with a 9 to 6 vote.

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