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CDF-Texas Statement on SB 8 – March 22, 2023

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I work for Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, a nonpartisan children’s advocacy organization that works for and with young Texans and families to ensure that every child has what they need to thrive with the support of loving communities. We echo the opposition from teachers, parents, and students to any attempt to defund public education, but in the interest of time I will focus my testimony on SECTION 1.014, the don’t say gay or trans gag order, and the pieces of this bill that infringe upon student rights.

Let’s talk about student rights. It is absolutely a parent’s role to help guide a child’s upbringing and share their family’s beliefs. But let’s get it on record: children are people. Individuals. With their own thoughts, identities, and ability for critical thought. And children have the freedom to decide for themselves what they believe and who they are.

SB 8 infringes upon children’s liberties. It censors students and teachers from talking about their own families and lives – whether straight or LGBTQ+. And – despite language recognizing that disclosing information against children’s wishes can lead to child abuse and harm – SB 8 heightens the chilling effect of silence and isolation that fosters abuse. As an aside, I think we’ve gone too far when we have to legislate that it’s still legal for teachers to ask students how they’re doing when they walk into the classroom.

All children deserve an education where they are safe, supported, and seen in their classrooms. Put aside the fearmongering, and that is all we’re asking for. Students with the freedom to explore and express their own identities. The questions that every child has about who they are, about the people around them, being met with love and open conversation, not fear and gag orders. That is the education all children deserve, no matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation – and it’s the education that the vast majority of Texas students increasingly and overwhelmingly are demanding.

Stand up for student rights and oppose SB 8.

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