The American Counseling Association strongly opposes H.B. 658, a measure in the Ohio General Assembly that would require professional counselors and teachers to “out” transgender children and youth to their parents.
The bill would require a professional school counselor, teacher or other counselor with knowledge that a student has “exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner opposite of the child's biological sex” to “immediately notify, in writing, each of the child's parents and the child's guardian or custodian. The notice shall describe the total circumstances with reasonable specificity.”
H.B. 658 applies to anyone with “supervisory authority or care over children,” including professional school counselors, as well as anyone employed by a public children’s services agency, court or school district.
This proposed legislation violates the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. It negates client rights to confidentiality and attacks the very basis of a key mandate for counselors: to provide counseling to those who need it and have nowhere else to turn.
Students must be allowed to speak to professional counselors about deeply personal issues without fear that their parents will be notified. Many of the young people who need these conversations the most already have problems with acceptance at home, and the requirements of H.B. 658 would only exacerbate those problems.
The suicide rate for LGBTQ youth in high school is almost five times greater than that for heterosexual youth. Children, adolescents and young adults who are questioning their gender identity need someone to talk to who is trained to help them. For some, a relationship with a professional counselor may be the only safe relationship they have.
The Ohio measure would allow professional school counselors and others to “provide gender dysphoria treatment for a child only after receiving the written, informed consent of each of the child's parents and the child's guardian or custodian.” Under this bill, failure to do so would be a felony.
“Treatment is defined as providing: (1) Educational materials, classes, or programs; (2) Medical, psychological, social, or other professional treatment, therapy, counseling, or other services,” according to the legislation.
As a result, a school counselor would be guilty of a felony for providing counseling without parental consent, as well as for merely providing “educational materials” to a student having gender-identity issues.
This bill is an example of government overreach, lacks compassion for young people in need of someone to talk to and diminishes the important help that can be provided by a trained, experienced professional counselor. The legislation is alarming, disappointing and unacceptable.
The American Counseling Association, the world’s largest organized body of professional counselors, vehemently opposes Ohio’s H.B. 658 and encourages ACA members and other professionals who will be negatively affected by this legislation to voice their opposition and their condemnation to the members of the Ohio Legislature.