Anti-Grooming Bill Won’t Protect Students; will hunt good educators

Pat Brothwell says these “groomer laws” will inevitably drive out good teachers and LGBTQ+ allies.

I don’t have access to the Cane Creek Middle School curriculum, but their website says it’s based on content aligned with NC’s essential standards. The NC Core Standards for grades 6-8 do not mention mandatory “indoctrination” on gender or sexuality in any subject.

Yet two weeks ago, former Cane Creek Middle School teacher Christopher Lee Todd pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, proving that current Republican “anti-grooming” legislation will not protect students.

While the “grooming” narrative – a chilling tactic adopted by conservatives to combat the erosion of traditional gender roles by claiming that discussing gender, sexuality or sex education in an unbiblically sanctioned way prepares children to be susceptible to sexual abuse and exploitation – has been around for years now, it has seen a resurgence, especially in restrictive legislatures like Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill or the North Carolina Parental Rights Bill.

The last action of House Bill 755, according to, was on June 6, when it was referred to the rules committee.

On March 4 of this year, Florida Governor DeSantis’ press secretary tweeted, “If you’re against the anti-grooming bill, you’re probably a groomer, or at least not speaking out against child grooming. from 4 to 8 years old. .”

She is far from the only one pushing this narrative. Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Donald Trump and author-turned-Senate candidate JD Vance are among those who have pushed versions of this message over the past year.

Statistically, this country has a huge sexual assault problem. Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, including school-aged children.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) reports that 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault from an adult (93% of child victims know their abuser ).

A 2016 survey by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that one in four high school students report experiencing unwanted verbal or physical sexual harassment on school property.

Although conservatives describe LGBTQ+ people as “groomers,” they are four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to experience sexual assault, according to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Republicans are acting like they’re looking for kids with the grooming narrative, but that doesn’t ban gender and sexuality studies or ban a gay educator from referring to a partner who will keep kids safe. children (similarly, empty, catchy bills to ban critical race the theory won’t keep students safer than, I don’t know, gun control?). This is a much bigger systemic problem that conservatives would rather not address in any meaningful way (the personal stories of Brett Kavanaugh, Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan – to give a few examples – may indicate why).

Even more troubling, these “groomer laws” will inevitably drive out good teachers and LGBTQ+ allies.

I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality when I was a public high school teacher in an affluent, conservative school district in Pennsylvania. I took great care to share my personal life with students and colleagues as little as possible (I did the same with my family and friends at the time). Yet someone from school – I still don’t know if it was a student or a colleague – spotted me at a date where I was staying outside the neighborhood on a Friday night. That Monday, a well-meaning colleague pulled me aside and told me to be careful not to disclose my sexuality. The word was out, he said, and he feared it would affect how students and parents perceived my professionalism. He mentioned that this simple date with a man my age could make me a pedophile.

It wasn’t the only reason I quit teaching, but it was an important factor. In February this year, the National Education Association reported that 55% of educators plan to leave school soon. Legislation like Florida’s will exacerbate an already critical shortage of teachers. Do you know what happens when there is a hiring shortage? Organizations, including schools, are lowering their standards, making it more likely that people who shouldn’t work with students will get school jobs.

In 2013, Owen Middle School teacher and coach Kevin Calloway was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for “producing child pornography by recording videos of students’ genitals.” Calloway was married to a woman at the time and has three children. I’d bet a pretty penny that he openly talked about his wife and kids to the students without worrying that it was the catalyst to call him a groomer. I would wager that legislation prohibiting Calloway from teaching students about gender or sexuality would not have saved his victims.

Pat Brothwell is a former high school teacher, but writer and marketing professional living and working in Asheville.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Opinion: ‘Anti-grooming’ bill won’t protect students

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