GOP bill seeks to give parents more control over what their child's being taught at school

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers are seeking to give parents more control over what their child's being taught in the classroom under a new proposal.

It was the center of a debate during a public hearing in the Assembly Education Committee over a bill that would allow parents/guardians to opt their child out from lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Republican bill introduced by Rep. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton) and Rep. Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield) would require districts to notify parents before any discussion on these topics is brought up in the classroom.

"Parents and guardians need to know when things are being taught at all grade levels that undermine their belief system," said Rozar.

Democrats and LGBTQ groups were opposed to the bill, calling it "offensive," and an attack on LGBTQ community. They argue it shouldn't be optional when talking about gender and sexual orientation in the classroom because it could be helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their peers.

"It helps them understand their classmates and when they understand their classmates, it helps them be more accepting," said Missy Mael, co-executive director of the Rape Crisis Center.

Lawmakers at times had heated exchanges over the proposal, with Democrats raising concerns it could lead to banning books and other materials that mention openly gay historic figures.

"Do the parents need to be notified that Harvey Milk is going to be mentioned in a book that they are reading about famous people in America?," asked Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb).

Rozar responded by saying she wasn't familiar with Milk, a civil and human rights leader who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S.

Pope said, "Do you realize how ridiculous this all looks? I just find this [bill] unmanageable and pretty offensive."

Republicans defended the bill, arguing it doesn't ban educational materials but instead allows parents to decide if they want their child involved in discussions surrounding gender identity, gender expressions, or sexual orientation in the classroom.

"This is merely just a way to give parents a choice, because there now are a lot of concepts coming out of school," said Rep. Robert Wittke (R-Racine).

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