A New Bill Could Allow Kentucky to Take Custody of Kids Using the Wrong School Bathroom

Kentucky Republicans have introduced a bill that one activist and legislative researcher says could charge the parents of transgender children with neglect, and even deny them custody, if their child uses a school bathroom that matches their gender identity.

House Bill 747 would change the definition of educational neglect under Kentucky law to include “a parent’s failure to properly supervise, instruct, train, or control his or her child” if that “failure” is a significant factor in why a child broke a school rule. As Virginia-based researcher and activist Allison Chapman first noted on social media, should HB 747 become law, this could result in trans minors being taken away from their families if they use a school bathroom that does not match their sex assigned at birth.

That kind of “disruptive” bathroom use is prohibited in Kentucky thanks to another Republican bill, SB 150, which became law last year. That law, which the ACLU of Kentucky called “one of the worst anti-trans bills in the country,” set in place broad restrictions on gender-affirming medical care for trans youth. It also established school and public restroom bans, and prevents schools from requiring that anyone use “pronouns that do not conform to a student’s biological sex.”

HB 747 was introduced on February 26 by Republican Rep. Jason Petrie, who has held office since 2017 and also voted in favor of SB 150. Petrie’s bill builds on that law by allowing officials to bring “abuse or neglect” charges against parents whose trans children violate SB 150’s bathroom ban. According to Kentucky state law, a parent or guardian found culpable for child neglect can lose custody temporarily or permanently. As of February 29, the bill was under consideration in the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee, of which Petrie is also the chair.

“This bill was easy to miss because it did not directly call out parents of trans kids and required existing knowledge of SB150,” Chapman noted.

HB 747’s language is broad enough to apply to almost any violation of a school board’s “code of acceptable behavior and discipline.” Petrie is a self-described Christian who expressed “concerns” about LGBTQ+ and abortion rights in an interview with the Kentucky Baptist Convention last year, saying that when Christians are told to “violate their own conscience […] I don’t abide that well.” The KBC, a religious nonprofit affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has opposed trans identities for nearly a decade. The group’s executive director Todd Gray campaigned for the passage of SB 150 last March.