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Ohio bill would require teachers, health providers to 'out' transgender students

If House Bill 658 passes, those who violate its parental consent requirements could be charged with a felony.

Ohio lawmakers have proposed a bill that would require teachers, counselors and health care professionals to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender or is questioning their gender identity.

“If a government agent or entity has knowledge that a child under its care or supervision has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner opposite of the child's biological sex, the government agent or entity with knowledge of that circumstance shall immediately notify, in writing, each of the child's parents and the child's guardian or custodian,” the legislation states.

House Bill 658, also known as the Parent’s Rights Bill, was first introduced in May by two southwest Ohio Republicans: Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, of Mason, and Rep. Thomas Brinkman, of Cincinnati.

"Parents have the right to decide what is best for their children,” Rep. Brinkman told NBC affiliate WLWT. He said he knows one transgender person but didn’t speak with any trans people before introducing the bill.

Rep. Zeltwanger said he wants to protect parental rights and added that once children reach age 18, they can “do whatever they want.”

Under House Bill 658, treatment for gender dysphoria may only be authorized for a minor “after receiving the written, informed consent of each of the child’s parents and the child’s guardian or custodian.” Gender dysphoria, according to the American Psychiatric Association, “involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.”

The bill would make authorizing or providing gender dysphoria treatment for a minor “without the written, informed consent of each of the child’s parents and the child’s guardian or custodian” a felony in the fourth degree. Gender dysphoria treatment can range from counseling to surgery.

Alana Jochum, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Ohio, said the bill creates a barrier between youth and their health providers and could create an unsafe environment for trans kids -- especially those with parents who are not supportive.

“HB 658 is a harmful bill that takes aim at some of our most vulnerable -- transgender youth -- by forcing school officials to serve as ‘gender police’ and out them or risk getting a felony,” Jochum told NBC News. “This exposes young people to discrimination, harassment, and bullying.”

LGBTQ advocacy groups are not the only organizations taking issue with HB 658. The Ohio Education Association, a union representing 125,000 teachers and support professionals, has publicly opposed the bill.

“It is contrary to OEA's belief that all persons, regardless of gender orientation, should be afforded equal opportunity and guaranteed a safe and inclusive environment within the public education system,” Becky Higgins, the organization’s president, said in a statement.

Citizens for Community Values, a religious organization that also opposes a bill that would allow trans people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, has come out in favor of HB 658.

“You can have whatever views you want on LGBT issues and on all of these things,” Aaron Baer, the group’s president, told NBC affiliate WLWT. “This is about insuring parents are the ones in charge of their child’s upbringing, not the state, not anyone else.”

According to WLWT, HB 658 was introduced after a court granted grandparents rights to a 17-year-old transgender boy after his parents attempted to force him into conversion therapy.

HB 658 is expected to go before the Ohio General Assembly in the fall.