January 17, 2022
Ordinance 31-21 states: “the City of West Lafayette, Indiana has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender from exposure to the serious harms and risks caused by conversion therapy or reparative therapy by unlicensed persons.”
As an educator of 7th-12th graders, I too have a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors. My students are extremely diverse in how they think, act, and express themselves, and I want what is best for each of them. Sometimes what I believe is best for them is contrary to what their parents believe is best for them. While I have wrestled internally with how to handle this contradiction, I always believe that a parental role is more important than the role of an educator. Who am I to tell parents how to raise their kids?
I also believe that the parental role is vastly superior to the City Council’s role in the raising of children. However, Ordinance 31-21 places the City Council members’ opinions of raising children above that of the child’s own parents. They wish to limit the options of counseling in this city for students and their families. In the name of “protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors,” they are actually inhibiting minors and their families’ ability to choose their desired path of counseling.
Ordinance 31-21 defines counseling as “techniques used to help individuals learn to solve problems and make decisions related to personal growth, vocational, family, and other interpersonal concerns.” It defines conversion therapy as “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” Based on these vague definitions, the simple act of opening the Bible to teach a minor about God’s design for men and women could be cause for a $1,000 fine. The Ordinance would not only limit counseling options, but also limit something on a much larger scale as well – the freedom of religion.
I firmly believe that freedom of religion and its expression should be protected for students and parents. In West Lafayette schools, we highly value parental involvement. We call home, we send emails, and we open our classrooms for parents to come in because we recognize the extreme importance of the child-parent relationship. Based on conversations with colleagues, our school has more parental involvement than most schools, and you can see that playing out in our high academics, student maturity, and student responsibility as well. If parental involvement has always been valued by the community, why would we take away a parent’s choice as to how their children are raised?
I write on behalf of my students and each family they are a part of. Instead of hampering freedom of religion and its practices, the City Council should honor, respect, and protect the child-parent relationships in this community and allow parents to decide how best to raise their children. Let the parents focus on their job, let the City Council members focus on their job, and I will focus on mine.
West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School Teacher, West Lafayette Resident