House Democrats on Thursday unanimously voted to block legislation that would have required informed parental consent before a school provides mental health services related to sexual orientation or gender identity to students.
In a 220-208 vote, the House rejected an attempt by Republicans to amend a bill that seeks to bolster mental health care for students, educators, and school staff negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Titled the Mental Health Matters Act, the legislation would award grants to build a pipeline of school-based mental health services providers and increase the number of professionals providing mental health services to elementary and secondary schools in high-need areas. The Department of Education would be responsible for allocating those grants.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) offered a motion to send the bill back to committee to add language requiring parental notice and consent before students receive certain services.
McClain's amendment required recipients of mental health grants to provide parents with "written notice" of mental health or emotional services provided to their children including those "related to the child's or other children's sexual orientation or gender identity."
"My amendment ... would establish that parents have the right to be informed of any mental health related issues with their children," McClain said on the House floor Thursday. "In other words, schools may not hide critical information from parents."
The Michigan lawmaker said her amendment was needed to address instances of teachers or school employees "bragging about how they covertly discuss transgender issues with their students." She said such examples were easy to find on social media. The controversial Twitter account Libs of TikTok is known to highlight the most egregious examples of school employees posting videos on social media describing how they teach children about sexual orientation and gender identity without telling their parents.
"School officials and personnel are not the parents. School officials and personnel have no right to ignore a parent's decision on what they think is best for their child," McClain said.
But Democrats voted in a bloc to knock down the motion to recommit. The final bill passed 220 to 205, with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) being the only Republican to vote in favor.
Republican leaders blasted Democrats for opposing McClain's amendment. "House Democrats just BLOCKED a bill requiring schools to provide parental notice and obtain consent before offering students health services," Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said.
"House Republicans believe parents have rights—including the right to be involved in every decision regarding their child’s health," he added.
Democrats said the Mental Health Matters Act was needed to address the lingering mental health issues plaguing students in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“Educators have been forced to play an outsized role in supporting and responding to students’ mental health needs, leading to increased depression and trauma among educators, their students, and the families and the community. However, our schools do not have the specialized staff necessary to respond to the increased prevalence and complexity of students’ mental health needs,” bill sponsor Rep. Mark DeSaulinier (D-Calif.) said.
“Simply put, the Mental Health Matters Act delivers the resources students, educators, and families need to improve their well-being,” DeSaulnier added, according to The Hill.
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