Bill standardizing pronouns in ND schools and government goes to governor

North Dakota lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed legislation to standardize the usage of pronouns in schools and government consistent with the norms of grammar now being undermined by political activists. The bill gives parents control over how their children are referred to in school and prohibits districts from imposing transgender policies on students behind their parents’ backs. Forum News says the measure enjoyed overwhelming support in both legislative houses.

The Republican-led North Dakota House of Representatives voted 60-32 on Wednesday, March 22, to approve Senate Bill 2231, which would bar school districts and their governing boards from creating policies to accommodate transgender students unless parents give explicit permission.

The proposal sponsored by Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, at the request of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, says public school teachers cannot be required to use a student’s pronoun if it doesn’t align with their sex at birth. A teacher would be allowed to use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun but only if the child’s parents and a school administrator give their blessing.

Schools would be prohibited from providing classroom instruction that recognizes the concept that gender identity can differ from sex at birth.

The legislation also provides clarity for teachers and other staff in schools, protecting them against pressure from the demands of activists and administrators to use their pronouns of choice. Most of all, it put the focus on academics and learning, rather than “expressed gender” and “preferred pronouns.”

Rep. Lori VanWinkle, R-Minot, promoted the proposal as a “back-to-the-basics bill” that would allow teachers, children and parents to focus on academics rather than divisive issues.

“Children deserve a learning environment that is academically strong, safe and without social distractions,” VanWinkle said.

Rep. SuAnn Olson, R-Baldwin, said the bill “allows teachers to know where they stand” on the pronoun issue. Teachers shouldn’t be subject to discipline if they refer to students by pronouns they don’t prefer, she said.

Under the measure, government employees would be protected from being forced to call colleagues by their favorite pronouns. The legislation awaits Gov. Doug Burgum’s signature with the expectation of more gender-related bills on the way.

The bill, which the Senate passed last month, represents the first in a wave of legislation opposed by LGBTQ advocates to reach Burgum’s desk. Lawmakers also are considering about a dozen proposals that would restrict health care, activities and personal expression for transgender residents.

Burgum can sign Luick’s bill into law, veto the proposal or allow it to take effect without acting on it. A spokesman for the Republican governor declined to comment on the proposal.

In 2021, Burgum vetoed a bill to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in K-12 sports. Conservative lawmakers narrowly failed to override the governor’s rejection.