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Iconic Scottsdale Arizona LGBTQ+ bar calls it quits after 35 years

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PHOENIX – A bill that allows parents to sue teachers for ‘usurping’ parental rights passed the state senate this week and is headed to the House for a final vote before being sent to Republican Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.

House Bill 2161, authored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, initially was crafted to make it illegal for a government employee to withhold information that is “relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the parent’s child,” and specifically prevents teachers from withholding information about a student’s “purported gender identity” or a request to transition to a gender other than the “student’s biological sex.”

The bill would allow parents to sue school districts if teachers don’t comply.

After considerable opposition and uproar the bill was reworked with that specific language removed although the bill’s language now prohibits a school, political subdivision or government from “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent in raising their children, allows a parent to bring a civil suit against any government entity or official that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights in Arizona law, gives parents the rights to all written or electronic records from a school about their child — including a students counseling records — and requires schools to notify parents before a survey is conducted of students, among other changes.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and others charge that the vagueness of the current language would still expose educators to the risk of being sued. The Arizona Mirror reported that Sen. Christine Marsh, a Phoenix Democrat and the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year said that “I am a hard ‘no’ on this bill,” when explaining her vote on the Seante floor Monday afternoon. She added that the vague wording of “usurping the fundamental right” in the bill will likely lead to many parents filing lawsuits. 

“Anything could potentially qualify for it so we might have a whole bunch of teachers going to court for this,” she added.

Those concerns were also echoed by her Democratic Senate colleagues the Mirror reported  during committee hearings on the bill who feared that if passed, the bill could see librarians getting in trouble for recommending books that conflict with a parent’s worldview. 

Rep. Daniel Hernández told the Blade on Wednesday, “The consistent targeting of LGBTQ youth by the Arizona Legislature is a disgrace. School is sometimes the only place these kids feel safe. I encourage Arizona lawmakers to tackle bringing down prices and fixing our roads and bridges instead of making life harder for an already vulnerable group of students.”

Arizona Republic news columnist and longtime capital observer EJ Montini noted in his column Tuesday:

“For years, the Republican majority in the Arizona Legislature has waged war on public education, most specifically targeting teachers. Low pay. Ridiculous expectations. Insults. Intimidation,” he wrote.

“Working its way through the Legislature so that it may soon land on Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk is House Bill 2161, a dangerously obtuse piece of legislation that would allow parents to sue teachers and other government officials if they “usurp” a parent’s “fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”

What does that mean, exactly? Well, your guess is as good as mine. As good as anybody’s.

By the looks of it, HB 2161 is a way for lousy parents to sue good teachers. Essentially, it presents the cynical notion that teachers know the children in their classes better than the children are known by their mothers and fathers. And that teachers have more influence over children than their mothers and fathers,” Montini wrote.

Equality Arizona and other LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are raising the alarm that House Bill 2161 specifies that parents are allowed to object to instructional materials if it “questions [their] beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.”

This language has been labeled as a pathway to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ practices by activists.

HB2161 also spells out that parents must also be notified in advance if a teacher plans to incorporate “sexuality” into instructional materials other than sex education, and will be given the option to opt their children out.

The bill would also prohibit school districts from offering sex education to students unless their parents sign a permission slip allowing them to participate. But even if a parent allows their child to receive sex education, this bill specifically would give them the “right” to ban their child from learning about AIDS.

The dangerous portion of the bill’s language that activists say will seriously harm LGBTQ+ youth are provisions that would give parents the right to access all written and electronic records pertaining to their child, including participation in extracurricular activities and clubs, counseling records, reports of behavioral patterns, and email and other online accounts.

If an LGBTQ+ youth was not Out at home or was having problems that language could endanger the young person and compounds the problem by putting teachers who are assisting LGBTQ+ youth at risk of lawsuits.

The bill passed 16-12. Because it was amended in the Senate, it returns to the House of Representatives for a final vote possibly this week, after which it would go to Gov. Ducey for his signature.


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