HALL MONITOR: “YES” on Parental Consent Before Changing a Student’s Name or Pronouns in Arizona Schools (SB 1166)

Name: Arizona Senate Bill 1166, Relating to pronouns; names; sex; school policies

Summary: Protection of parental rights involving the gender identity of the parent’s minor child and speech protections for school employees. 

Status: Passed Senate on February 26 and sent to the House. 

Sponsor: Senator John Kavanaugh

Bill Breakdown:

Requires schools to notify parents within five days of a school employee referring to a minor student with a name different from the student’s given name, or a pronoun different from the student’s biological sex. Schools also may not require employees to refer to another individual by a name and pronouns that are not congruent with the person’s sex if doing so “is contrary to the employee’s… religious or moral convictions.” 

Why does PDE Action support this bill? 

Parents Defending Education, our partner organization, has tracked more than 1,000 school districts across the country that have parental exclusion policies. These policies state that schools may not inform parents if and when their child requests to use another name or pronouns at school. 

PDE Action believes that parents, not school employees, are a child’s first and foremost caretaker. It’s vital for the wellbeing of children to include parents in conversations about mental health and wellbeing. SB 1166 includes parents in the conversation by requiring parental notification for name and pronoun changes.

Unfortunately, many school districts across the United States have adopted anti-harassment policies that require students and staff to refer to others by preferred names and pronouns—even if those do not align with the person’s sex. This bill protects freedom of speech by ensuring that employees are not compelled to voice a position on sex and gender that differs from their own moral convictions. This position aligns with precedent set in federal court regarding the use of preferred pronouns, namely, that government entities, including schools, may not compel speech. PDE Action believes that students have the same right to free speech and protection against compelled speech. Our partner organization, Parents Defending Education, recently secured a victory in the Eighth Circuit in protecting students from compelled speech regarding pronoun usage.

PDE Action supports Arizona Senate Bill 1166 because it protects parents’ right to be involved in the wellbeing of their children, and protects the freedom of speech for school employees.