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To: House Judiciary Committee
From: Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2231 - Public Employees and Public Schools Pronoun Policies
Date: March 20, 2023

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports Senate Bill 2231 to protect the rights of public employees and public school parents, and to set limits on when and how a public school can adopt policies regarding expressed gender.

The first part of the bill prohibits a government entity from:

  • Mandating that a public employee use an individual's preferred pronoun when addressing or mentioning the individual in work-related communications;
  • Requiring that a public employee designate the employee's preferred pronoun in work-related communications.

The bill does not prohibit an employee from using someone’s preferred pronoun. It does not prevent an employee from designating their preferred pronoun in work communications. It does not prevent any government entity from complying with federal law or from making the best language choices when providing health care or similar services. It only prohibits the government employer from mandating those specified actions, unless it is otherwise required by law.

The second part of the bill states that, unless it is otherwise required by law, a board of a school district, a public school, or a teacher in a public school may not:

  • Adopt a policy or practice regarding expressed gender;
  • Provide or authorize classroom instruction recognizing expressed gender; or
  • Provide or require professional development recognizing expressed gender.

If such a policy concerning a specific student’s expressed gender or pronoun is required by law, SB 2231 requires that the policy be made in consultation with and with the approval of the parents. In 2021, a school district in North Dakota adopted a policy that prohibited school employees from revealing a student's “transgender status” and preferred pronoun to the student’s own parents. (The policy is attached.) The policy has since been changed, but this infringement upon parental rights should not have happened. Senate Bill 2231 ensures that it will not happen again.

Finally, SB 2231 reiterates that, unless otherwise required by law, public schools cannot require teachers to use a student’s preferred pronoun. It does not, however, prohibit the teacher from using the student’s preferred pronoun if the teacher has consulted with, and received approval from, the student's parent or guardian and the school administrator.

Over the last two years, my office has heard from public employees and the pastors of public employees about how such policies conflict with sincere religious beliefs or strong non-religious convictions. Some public employees were forced to attend professional development sessions devoted solely to the promotion of adopting policies and practices accommodating expressed gender and preferred pronouns. Then I heard from legislators who heard the same concerns from their constituents.

This legislative body is considering many bills related to gender this session. Senate Bill 2231 addresses the basic issues — parental rights, public employee rights, and public school policies.

We ask for a “Do Pass” recommendation on Senate Bill 2231.

What We Do

The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
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