State Senator Stacey Campfield plans to introduce his “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB049) to the Senate Education Committee. As introduced, the bill requires that “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. “
This bill would tie the hands of school counselors, school psychologists, teachers, principals and other school employees in protecting our children. If a child is experiencing issues relating to their sexual orientation or identity, they would be unable to discuss those issues with the adults who are supervising and teaching them. Early detection of the signs of depression can help prevent suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
Bullying is escalating both on and off school grounds, locally and nationally. Many of these incidents involve real and perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Don’t Say Gay would jeopardize the safety and well-being of students.
This legislation raises serious issues of bias as well as free speech. SB049 is, quite simply, an attempt to control what teachers and schools teach. Consider what effects this bill could have if it becomes law: teachers could be prohibited from even mentioning the fact that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people exist. It is quite possible that school libraries would fail to comply with the law if their shelves contained books with lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters. Would textbooks discussing the history of the holocaust be prohibited from listing homosexuals among those persecuted with Jews, Gypsies, and political dissenters in Nazi Germany?
It’s not clear what would happen if a student asked a question in class about laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation–the teacher might have to respond that he or she is not allowed to discuss such subjects.
Lastly, the Tennessee State Board of Education has no approved curriculum addressing the issue of homosexuality in grades K-8. This bill is simply a ploy to introduce bias toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in schools that could jeopardize the safety of Tennessee students.
Contact the Tennessee Senate Education Committee and tell them to VOTE NO on the Don’t Say Gay bill.