When Louisiana’s then-governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed HB 466 in 2023, his message was clear: the bill, which was modeled after the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, was “unworkable, burdensome, cruel, and likely unconstitutional.”

The legislature seems to have missed the message. 

Republican Rep. Dodie Horton, who sponsored the previous iteration of Louisiana’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has once again introduced legislation to prohibit instruction related to gender and sexuality in K-12 schools. The bill, HB 122, recently passed the House, and is poised to advance to the new governor, Jeff Landry, a sympathetic Republican who has already signaled his support. 

Horton says the bill is intended to prevent “inappropriate influence and persuasion” in the classroom. But even Horton admits that no school board has reported such indoctrination. Rather than save Louisiana schoolchildren from “inappropriate influence,” this bill will chill expression in K-12 schools, potentially prohibiting teachers from teaching LGBTQ+ history, answering students’ questions about their classmates’ parents, or even having a photo of their spouse on their desk. 

Despite the concern over alleged indoctrination, Horton has also introduced another bill this year that is moving swiftly through the legislature—one that would impose religious doctrine in public schools.

HB 71, which recently passed the House, would require any school that receives state funds—including colleges and universities—to display the Ten Commandments in each building and classroom. “I’m not concerned with an atheist. I’m not concerned with a Muslim,” said Horton. “I’m concerned with our children looking and seeing what God’s law is.”

The bill is almost certainly unconstitutional, as it would erase the barrier between church and state that is guaranteed in First Amendment jurisprudence. Its introduction makes clear which specific “influence and persuasion” Horton believes is appropriate in public education. 

But if free expression advocates hope that such bills will die in the state senate, they should reconsider. Louisiana’s other chamber has advanced a censorial agenda of its own. 

The state senate recently passed SB 262, an educational gag order that would prohibit teaching students that they are “currently or destined to be oppressed or to be an oppressor based on the child’s race or national origin”—language that echoes similar divisive concepts bills designed to chill discussions about race, racism, systems of oppression, and American history. Louisiana is currently one of the only Southern states that has avoided passage of such a bill.

Similar legislation in other states has resulted in classrooms where teachers are too afraid to teach the history of jazz and the blues, book bans that verge on the tragic and the absurd, and school environments where students feel unsupported and teachers are walking on eggshells. This raft of bills, were they to be signed into law, would cast a stark ideological pall over Louisiana classrooms.