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Proposed Missouri bill would make teachers register as sex offenders if found supporting transgender students who socially transition

A newly proposed law in Missouri could charge teachers and counselors with a felony and require them to register as sex offenders if they’re found guilty of supporting transgender students who are socially transitioning.

Missouri state Rep. Jamie Gragg, a Republican, introduced HB 2885 last week. If passed and signed into law, the legislation would criminalize the act of “contributing to social transition” for anyone acting in an official capacity at their school, including providing informational or material support.

The proposed bill joins a string of anti-LGBTQ measures that have been filed in states across the US and comes amid a growing “parental rights” movement that seeks to empower parents to decide what can be taught in classrooms about gender, sexuality and race.

Numerous medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, have said gender-affirming care, like social transitioning, is clinically appropriate for children and adults.

The bill defines social transitioning as “the process by which an individual adopts the name, pronouns, and gender expression, such as clothing or haircuts, that match the individual’s gender identity and not the gender assumed by the individual’s sex at birth.”

In Missouri, a person charged with a class E felony could face a maximum of four years in prison. A Tier I sex offender could also remain on the Sex Offender Registry for up to 15 years, according to another Missouri statute.

CNN has reached out to Gragg for comment.

In an interview with CNN affiliate KY3, Gragg said the goal of the bill is to “put the social learning development of our children back in the hands of the parents.”

“Ultimately, whose children are these? They belong to the family that they come from. If there is a situation where they don’t have that parental or guardian to go back on or to talk to, there is other help, professional help they can get,” Gragg told the outlet.

It is unclear if Gragg’s bill will be taken up in the state House and it has not been scheduled for a hearing.

‘Hateful and malicious’

LGBTQ advocates and Missourians have criticized the bill, including Gragg’s brother.

During a news conference Thursday, Charles Gragg, Jr., a retired and disabled veteran who lives in Springfield, Missouri, said he was shocked by the bill his younger brother authored and that the measure “took his breath away.”

“This bill is removing valuable support that is important for children. It needlessly targets teachers in addition to attacking those that they don’t agree with. It also attacks anyone who expresses compassion or tolerance and seeks to silence them. I believe it’s intended to remove them from the future conversations,” Gragg Jr. said.

Robert Fischer, communications director for PROMO, a LGBTQ+ policy and advocacy organization in Missouri that organized Thursday’s presser, said students and teachers have contacted the group to express concern about how the bill could impact educators.

“We will certainly have conversations with legislators to see what can be done, but also we’ll mobilize our community of LGBTQ+ Missourians and allies to fight back against this because teachers are an incredibly crucial part of our educational system,” Fischer said.

GLSEN, an organization that aims to create safe and inclusive school environments for LGBTQ+ youth, also criticized the bill. Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of GLSEN, said the bill is “deeply transphobic.”

“While this egregious bill is expected to die in committee hearings, it is increasingly alarming to watch extremist state legislators peddle anti-trans hate and continue to introduce discriminatory policies,” Willingham-Jaggers said in a statement to CNN. “Hate speech, especially when enshrined into discriminatory policies like these transphobic bills in Oklahoma and Missouri, leads to hate crimes.”

Oklahoma’s governor signed a bill into law last year banning gender-affirming care for minors with the possibility of a felony charge for health care professionals who provide it.

Last month, Nex Benedict, a nonbinary high school student in Oklahoma, died a day after they told their family they were involved in a fight at school. Civil rights groups and advocates have blamed a heightened and hostile climate against the LGBTQ+ community for contributing to Benedict’s death.

In 2023, at least 510 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization is also tracking 478 bills in the 2024 legislative session that restrict LGBTQ rights.

Gragg Jr. said he has not spoken with his brother about the bill and does not know what would inspire him to sponsor it.

“It’s just hateful and malicious. This legislation will cost lives and recklessly destroy others just for the sin of being compassionate.”

CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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