Arizona citizen Peggy McClain recently filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman because of LGBTQ-focused chat rooms available on the ADE website where youths can speak to adults about sex and gender identity.
“She’s in an office to protect children and to guide children and to make children better, and she’s putting them in grave danger,” McClain said of Hoffman in a phone interview with The Arizona Sun Times.
McClain argued that Hoffman was breaking the law and that the ADE’s actions violated Arizona’s Parents’ Bill of Rights. Under the law, any attempt to “encourage or coerce” a minor to withhold information from the child’s parents “shall be grounds for discipline of an employee of this state,” such as Hoffman.
McClain also shared that children are asked to give personal information when signing up for QChat Space; this includes race, romantic interests, sexual orientation, gender identity, email, date of birth, and ZIP code. McClain said it is “mysterious what is done with this information” and who is chatting with the youths on the other end, meaning “sexual groomers” may have access to youths through the chat.
The complaint was filed on September 1 at the Maricopa County Superior Court and requested that the ADE remove the chat rooms from its website. Judge Peter Thompson will oversee the case.
McClain told the Sun Times that Hoffman has 20 days from when the complaint was filed to respond, but she has received no response yet. Under the law, if a defendant does not answer within the given time limit after a complaint is filed, the judge will assume the facts alleged in the complaint are true, and issue an initial decision.
AZ Free News also reported that adults facilitating discussions QChat Space, known as “Q Chatters,” do not have to be licensed professionals. The child’s personal data entered into the site could also be vulnerable to hacking, meaning it could spread to child predators or be sold on the dark web.
According to the ADE website, LGBTQ resources are available to help students in Arizona’s schools and communities. Staff and LGBTQ community members collected the resources as part of the ADE’s Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council.
QChat Space provides online discussion groups for teens ages 13 to 19. There is no video or audio, and all conversations are live and chat-based. Dialogues are facilitated by LGBTQ Center staff from across the country. An upcoming group meeting is titled “FOR TRANS/NON-BINARY YOUTH: Building Healthy Relationships (Platonic and Romantic)” and is set for Friday afternoon.
The other online chat room the ADE presents is Gender Spectrum, which hosts free online groups for “pre-teens, teens, parents, caregivers, and other family members and adults.” The online groups are separated by age range.
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Photo “Children Using a Computer” by Marta Wave.