The case for student-teacher confidentiality

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Abby Akard

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Never again is now
February 16, 2017

Photo by: Photo by Abby Akard

The Texas senate consists of 31 members, each representing around 800,000 people.

 One of the bills proposed in the ongoing Texas legislature session, Senate Bill 242, a right-to-know bill put forward by Texas Senator Konni Burton (R-Fort Worth), amends a section of Texas law that grants parents access to their student’s public school records, such as attendance, test scores, and counseling records. This bill expands access to records and reports from teachers regarding all information of school activities and personal knowledge that a student might disclose to a teacher. In addition, the bill punishes school employees for withholding “general knowledge” including personal, direct, and incidental information and for encouraging students not to disclose information.  

Groups have already begun opposing this bill. Equality Texas, a nonprofit group that strives for “full equality in the hearts and minds of our fellow Texans and in all areas of the law,” particularly for LGBT+ individuals, has issued a statement in opposition with SB 242. The statement in part shows the belief that the proposed bill would end trusted conversations between students and school employees and force teachers to “out” students, putting them in potentially dangerous situations. Steven M. Rudman, a chairman of the organization, also stated

if your kid is gay, and can tell his teacher, but hasn’t told you, then you are the problem. If a kid can tell a teacher but not their parent, it is a pretty good indication that your child is scared of you and the consequences of telling you, and you are who the kid needs to be protected from.”

This statement lines up with the reason why Sen. Burton originally wrote the bill. She stated that SB 242 responds to a Fort Worth school district’s decision to allow transgender students to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Sen. Burton issued a statement stating that “Our schools are a place of learning; they are not replacements for the support and love of the family,” and while this statement remains true, for LGBT+ students their parents may not always act loving and supporting. Many students turn to teachers, counselors or another adult for help and advice. By forcing teachers to disclose information when asked, it effectively eliminates any chance that a student in an unaccepting family has to ask for advice from someone loving and accepting.  Additionally, students outed by their schools could go home to angry and aggressive parents, who in some cases may turn to the highly controversial practice of conversion therapy, currently supported by the Texas GOP platform.

This bill aims to end safe communication between school employees and students and will open LGBT+ students to consequences from unaccepting family members. Stopping SB 242 will ensure student-teacher confidentiality remains intact and all students have a trusted adult they can go to for help.