Opinion: Kemp needs to consider more than his kids in education policy

Gov. Brian Kemp often mentions his three daughters when discussing education policy. Here, he's shown on election night in 2018 in Athens with (background from left) daughter Jarrett, wife Marty and daughter Amy Porter. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Gov. Brian Kemp often mentions his three daughters when discussing education policy. Here, he's shown on election night in 2018 in Athens with (background from left) daughter Jarrett, wife Marty and daughter Amy Porter. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Governor should not sacrifice well-being of Georgia kids to culture wars

Gov. Brian Kemp often references his own daughters when he discusses education.

In supporting bans on critical race theory, Kemp said, “As the parents of three daughters, Marty and I are also concerned about what we are seeing across the country. From the classroom to the ball field, there are those who want to divide our kids along political lines, push partisan agendas, and indoctrinate students from all walks of life.”

Referencing proposed bans on trans girls playing school sports, Kemp said, “With three daughters who all played sports in middle school and high school, Marty and I want to protect the same, equal opportunities for success that our girls had for all of Georgia’s students.”

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Kemp has every right to protect his girls. What he doesn’t have a right to do is endanger and marginalize other people’s children.

And that is what the culture war legislation that he is supporting will do. From restricting books that honestly reflect the experiences of students of color to telling 11-year-olds born male but who identify as female that they can’t play soccer with their classmates, Kemp and GOP lawmakers are telling these children they don’t matter.

The message they are sending: You are different from our children and that makes you unworthy of inclusion. Your experiences as a Black child, as a Latino child, as a transgender child, as a victim of sexual assault, as a gay child will not be represented in the books you can read or in the classroom discussions you can have. The history and cultural forces that created your invisibility will be unexamined. Your concerns, your fears will be unheard. You will be unseen.

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The Legislature deplores school bullying, yet lawmakers are willing to bully countless children for political ends. Why would Kemp and GOP leaders in the House and Senate deliberately endorse laws that will make being a transgender adolescent even harder?

It’s already too hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that 29% of transgender high school students attempted suicide in the previous 12 months, compared to 7% of cisgender youths. The survey revealed that 21% of gay and lesbian and 22% of bisexual youths attempted suicide, compared to 7% of straight teens.

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Rather than reaching out to help these kids stay afloat, Georgia lawmakers are setting them adrift.

At a hearing last year, the mother of a transgender seventh grader pleaded with lawmakers to consider her daughter’s safety and well-being. “Pulling her from this team of her cherished community and sending her to play with the boys would be nothing short of traumatic and cruel,” said the mother.

As a parent, Kemp has every right to want his daughters protected and treated with dignity and respect. As a governor, he has the responsibility to ensure every Georgia child is protected and respected.