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New Hampshire House voting on whether parents who ask must be told about transgender talk at school

Advocates for transgender youth rally outside the New Hampshire Statehouse, in Concord, N.H., on March 7.Holly Ramer/Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The national debate surrounding transgender students and parental rights returns to the New Hampshire Statehouse on Thursday.

The House is set to vote on a bill to create a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” similar to those already enacted by Republican-led legislatures in multiple states. It passed the GOP-dominated Senate in March along party lines but faces an uncertain future in the 400-member House, where Republicans have a razor-thin majority.

Much of the debate has focused on whether to require school officials — when asked by parents — to disclose that their child is using a different name or being referred to as being a different gender.

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“Parents who ask such questions likely already suspect that their children are having problematic issues in this area, so this bill is not an effort to ‘out’ such students,” Republican Rep. Arlene Quartatiello wrote in remarks printed in the House calendar ahead of the vote. “It is, rather, an effort to empower a partnership between parents and teachers to most effectively help vulnerable children navigate complicated situations that may involve life-altering decisions.”

Opponents argue that while it may appear benign in detailing many rights already covered by existing state and federal law, the bill exposes students to the risk of abuse at home — a bad idea for young people who are already prone to stress, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“This rush to inform will deny adolescents the time needed for thoughtfulness and care that is sometimes needed for a teen and their family to approach this sensitive issue,” Rep. Mel Myler, a Democrat from Hopkinton, wrote in the calendar.

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a similar bill last year that would have required schools to automatically notify parents about students’ sexuality or gender identity. Even with the parental request requirement, opponents say the underlying intent remains: singling out transgender students. Sununu said Wednesday he generally supports the new bill but is waiting to see if any amendments are made.

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Supporters attending an outdoor rally before a public hearing last month held signs reading “PRO PARENT ANTI SECRETS” and “Children Belong to Parents, Not Schools.” Opponents — including parents of transgender children — carried signs reading “Trans Rights Are Human Rights” and “Trans Kids Belong Here.”

Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted similar measures, fueled by parental frustration with schools that boiled over during the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S. House, a parents’ rights bill was the first legislation that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally announced — fulfilling a major part of the GOP campaign platform.