Georgia senators again push conservative aims for schools

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's Republican state senators are making another attempt to impose a conservative stamp on the state's public schools, passing a bill Tuesday that would ban transgender girls from playing high school sports with other girls, limit sex education and require a system for notifying parents of every item a child obtained in a school library.

The Senate voted 33-21 along party lines for House Bill 1104, a measure that originally dealt with suicide prevention, but was radically overhauled in Senate committee by adding a number of other bills that had earlier failed to pass the Senate. The measures mirror bills brought by Republicans in other states.

“Simply, what this bill does is it protects children and it empowers parents,” said Sen. Clint Dixon, a Buford Republican who shepherded the bill.

But Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat, called the measure “an amalgamation of a whole number of wrongheaded culture war bills.”

Although it's unclear whether the more moderate House will be receptive to the measure, it was pushed forward by Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who has been building a conservative record in advance of a possible run for governor in 2026.

“As the father of a daughter who plays sports, I will never stop fighting to preserve the integrity of women’s sports so that the next generation of Georgia’s female athletes can compete on a safe and level playing field,” Jones said in a statement.

The measure would ban transgender girls from competing in girls' high school sports. It does not ban transgender males from competing against other males, and it applies not only to public schools but to private schools that compete against public schools. The Georgia High School Association, which regulates high school sports, already enacted such a ban after an earlier law encouraged it.

It would also ban transgender boys and girls playing sports from using multi-occupancy restrooms or locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. However, the bill does not appear to ban transgender boys and girls from all bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Jennifer Hadley of Bethlehem, who has a transgender son, said she wasn't sure how it would affect his participation in band. She said her son is “already having a hard enough time as it is just being a teenager, much less being a trans teenager.”

“The uncertainty that this enters into their lives — it has its mental toll over time,” Hadley said.

In another section of the bill, schools could drop sex education and students would only be enrolled if parents specifically opt in. The measure would ban all sex education in fifth grade and below.

Currently state sex education standards call for little explicit discussion of human reproduction below eighth grade, although second graders are supposed to learn the names of all body parts and “appropriate boundaries around physical touch.” Fifth graders are supposed to learn about puberty, and most mandated sex education happens in a high school health course.

The bill says schools can still talk about child abuse and assault awareness and prevention and menstruation. But it’s unclear if a teacher could explain to a fifth grader why she is menstruating. Dixon said in committee that his wife had explained menstruation to one of his daughters without explaining human reproduction.

The measure would require school boards to provide 45 days of public review and comment, and two public hearings before adopting a sex education curriculum. Another two-week notice would be required before material is actually presented in school.

“Children only have a finite time of innocence and we should be wanting to protect that," Dixon said.

But opponents warn that the opt-in provision will lead to many parents unintentionally failing to enroll their students.

“What is this bill?" asked Sen. Josh McLaurin, an Atlanta Democrat. "It’s nothing more than banning everyone from talking about sex so a few parents who feel uncomfortable don’t have to have the talk until later in life. It’s weak.”

A third portion of the bill would let parents choose to receive an email any time their child obtains library material. It also creates a parental right to all information about a student including reports of behavioral patterns, academic intervention strategies, or any material made available to a student including classroom, library and extracurricular activities.

Rep. Omari Crawford, the Decatur Democrat who sponsored the original part of the bill dealing with suicide prevention among high school athletes, said he's now working against its passage.

“The language that was added is probably going to exacerbate suicide rates,” Crawford said. "So I don’t think it’s going to prevent suicide."