This bill would prohibit South Dakota teachers from acknowledging transgender kids exist

For the second year in a row, South Dakota could be the first state legislature to push through an anti-LGBTQ bill in 2018, and it’s a brand new kind of attack. The proposed bill would censor schools from discussing transgender issues until students are in eighth grade.

S.B. 160 is short. It adds the following to the state education code:

No instruction in gender identity or gender expression may be provided to any student in kindergarten through grade seven in any public school in the state.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Phil Jensen (R), believes the issues aren’t age-appropriate and actually argues that they could get in the way of learning other skills. “I think we need to be focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said.

The bill is a new spin on a series of “no promo homo” laws that are on the books in seven other states. These laws vary from state to state in the way they either prohibit discussing homosexuality in schools or dictate teaching that homosexuality is harmful or even against the law — even though sodomy laws have been unenforceable since the Supreme Court overturned them in 2003. South Dakota’s bill would be the first to extend such censorship to gender identity issues.

As GLSEN points out, several states have taken steps in the opposite direction, ensuring that schools respect transgender students. For example, when the Massachusetts Department of Education issued guidance in 2013 for protecting trans students, it included the recommendation that schools “incorporate education and training about trans and gender non-conforming into anti-bullying curriculum, students leadership trainings, and staff professional development.” Studies have repeatedly found that schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum have far lower rates of anti-LGBTQ bullying.

It thus stands to reason that under Jensen’s bill, a transgender student would receive no institutional support. Educating students about the trans student’s identity and why it’s inappropriate to bully them would be prohibited under law. The many books that help explain these issues to young children, like I Am Jazz and My Princess Boy, would be barred from classrooms.

And that’s not Jensen’s only anti-transgender bill this session. He’s also introduced S.B. 202, which would require posting warning signs on public restrooms “that a person of the opposite sex may be in the restroom the user is about to enter.”

Jensen has been called South Dakota’s “most conservative lawmaker.” He previously introduced a bill to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and he defended it by arguing that a Ku Klux Klan-run bakery should be allowed to turn away African-American customers.

South Dakota was the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ law in 2017, one that ensured religiously affiliated adoption agencies could discriminate against same-sex couples without consequence. Jensen defended that bill by comparing LGBTQ people to pedophiles.

In 2016, South Dakota lawmakers advanced a bill that would have blocked schools from accommodating trans students’ gender identities, but Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) ultimately vetoed the bill. A similar bill was introduced last year, but didn’t advance. Daugaard has likewise expressed concern with Jensen’s new bill, saying that he doesn’t “know that our standards of education are properly the subject of legislative enactments.”


Fox News is pretending that the White House domestic violence scandal doesn’t exist

Rob Porter, a White House staff secretary who was in change of the flow of paperwork coming into and out of the Oval Office, resigned from his position on Wednesday after both of his ex-wives accused him of abuse — but not before White House Chief of Staff John Kelly released a statement praising Porter and ignoring the abuse allegations and his alleged victims.

Fox News, however, is pretending the scandal doesn’t exist.

Questions have since been raised about what top White House officials knew and when they knew it. Bloomberg reports that “senior White House aides” had “heard of domestic violence allegations against President Donald Trump’s staff secretary before reports published on Tuesday and Wednesday that led to his resignation.” According to CBS, “the FBI informed the White House in November about the domestic abuse allegations against Porter. It’s unclear how the White House responded to this information.”

These revelations have raised concerns about Porter’s involvement in sensitive White House matters.

“Allegations of domestic violence can be grounds for the government to deny security clearances to aspiring officials,” Bloomberg reports. “Yet Porter had sat in on meetings of the National Security Council where top secret matters were discussed, according to three people familiar with the situation.”

Kelly’s initial statement about Porter was not well received. So late Wednesday, the White House chief of staff released a second one feigning surprise about the Porter accusations, and denouncing domestic violence.

From Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, the White House domestic abuse came up dozens of times both on CNN and MSNBC. Kelly’s shifting statements about Porter on Wednesday got “breaking news” treatment on both networks. 

But if you think any of that would warrant so much as a mention on Fox News, think again. According to transcripts of the network’s broadcasts, Porter’s name wasn’t mentioned a single time on Fox News’ programming from the 6 o’clock hour on Wednesday until the 9 o’clock hour on Thursday morning.

That means that Porter’s name didn’t come up a single time on Fox News’ primetime programming or on Thursday’s edition of Trump’s favorite show, Fox & Friends. Instead, hosts found to instead discuss allegations that Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia, to chastise anyone opposed to Trump’s plan to have a military parade in D.C., and to criticize Justin Trudeau for correcting “mankind” to “humankind” at a town hall event.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway joined Fox & Friends for an interview, but wasn’t asked about Porter. Hosts instead teed up a question for her about the Eagles’ Super Bowl win.

Conway also worked with hosts to push a “scandal” about text messages sent between two FBI agents, claiming President Obama exerted influence in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Despite the fact that the story was debunked on Wednesday, Fox News has continued pushing it.

While Fox News decision to ignore the White House domestic abuse scandal is particularly egregious, the network has routinely downplayed bad news for Trump, while pushing misleading stories that discredit Trump’s opponents and the institutions tasked with overseeing his administration.

In return, the president has effusively praised the network while attacking its competitors.

As of Thursday morning, it remains unclear exactly when Porter will stop working in the White House.