Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay in Schools” Bill

Students go to school to learn, not to hear propaganda. School curricula should contain the facts so that students can make educated decisions about the world around them.

Whether or not someone supports gay marriage, adoption, or other gay rights issues, the fact that gay people exist is indisputable. Clearly then, teachers should not be banned from discussing homosexuality.

But Tennessee House Representative Stacey Campfield is trying to hide the truth from children. He introduced H.B. 0821, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prevent teachers from mentioning homosexuality in elementary or middle school.

Luckily, the Tennessee House K-12 Education Subcommittee sent the bill to the state Board of Education to study it further, essentially killing the bill until the next legislative session. This is the second year in a row that the same subcommittee killed the bill. But why did they send it to the Board of Education instead of simply voting against it?

Unfortunately, even Democrats were afraid to vote against the bill. Campfield requested a roll-call vote on the bill, meaning that those who vote against the bill could be labeled as pro-gay and face difficulties with reelection. Aside from reelection concerns, Democrats are more critical of Campfield raising a stink over nothing (since Tennessee elementary and middle schools don’t currently teach students about homosexuality anyway) than they are over the actual contents of the bill.

It’s a good thing, though, that this bill didn’t pass. Not only does it take control away from the Board of Education, but it is harmful to children. Middle schools should offer sex education that teaches students facts about sex — gay and straight. Over half of Tennessee high school students report that they’ve had sexual intercourse. Schools should prepare these students so they know about birth control options and how to avoid STDs.

Campfield’s bill is reminiscent of previous efforts to filter content related to homosexuality from Tennessee schools. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged school Internet filters in Knoxville and Nashville that banned educational sites about LGBT issues. The filters were designed to deny access to obscene and harmful content, yet purely educational websites were blocked. The ACLU reached a settlement, requiring the school systems to stop using the filter and allow students to inform themselves about LGBT issues.

Trying to hide the truth from Tennessee children will not rid the state of LGBT people. It will only spread ignorance and prevent knowledge and intelligent discourse.

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