A controversial Tennessee bill that would stop teachers from discussing sexuality with their students has been resurrected in the state legislature, and the 2013 version includes a troubling new provision.
Nicknamed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield's measure would "prohibit teachers from discussing of any sexuality except heterosexuality in grades K-8."
An amendment to the re-filed bill reads, in part:
At grade levels pre-K through eight (pre-K-8), any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.
The proposed legislation, officially titled the "Classroom Protection Act," was not put to a final vote at the end of last year's General Assembly, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel, but one of its sponsors warned it would be re-filed if "alternative lifestyles" were being promoted in the state school system.
The bill's backers are apparently still dissatisfied with the curricula in some schools, and the measure is slated to be discussed in the Tennessee General Assembly's Education Subcommittee on Wednesday, according to the Nashville Scene.
This new incarnation of the bill retains its proposed ban on LGBT discussions in the classroom and has also added a provision that could be interpreted as forcing school authorities to inform parents if their child is gay.
School counselors, nurses, principals and assistant principals can talk to students about human sexuality if a student is "engaging in, or may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well- being of the student or another person," according to the bill. However, the measure provides that "Parents or legal guardians of such students shall be notified as soon as practicable of the circumstances requiring intervention."
This wording leaves a lot of leeway for teachers and authorities to determine when and if a situation requires telling parents about their child's sexuality, notes ThinkProgress. The site goes on to comment that being rejected by family members is a major cause of homelessness among LGBT youth. According to a study conducted in part by the Williams Institute, up to 40 percent of homeless teens identify as LGBT.
Meanwhile, a similar bill in Missouri was buried after causing a huge controversy last year. Steve Cookson, the Missouri legislator who sponsored the bill, is now chairman of the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, according to the Kansas City Star.
Read the new amendment to the "Don't Say Gay Bill" here.