Nation

South Dakota considers ban on teaching about gender identity

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers will consider banning public school teaching on gender identity in elementary and middle schools, a push that critics say targets transgender students in the same way some states limit the positive portrayal of homosexuality in the classroom.

The state would be the first in the nation to block instruction on gender identity or gender expression, said Nathan Smith, public policy director at GLSEN, a national group focused on safe schools for LGBTQ students. But the organization recently counted seven states with restrictions on positively portraying homosexuality in health classes, sometimes called ‘‘no-promo-homo’’ laws. The states are Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

‘‘We think that it’s bad broadly for LGBTQ students in South Dakota,’’ Smith said.

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LGBTQ students in states with such laws are more likely to face assault and harassment at school, and get less support from teachers and administrators, according to a GLSEN research brief.

South Dakota’s bill would cover public school students from kindergarten through seventh grade. Education Department spokeswoman Mary Stadick Smith said in an email that the she’s not aware of gender identity being taught in schools.