Just a month after a study showed Americans are more accepting of gay parents than single mothers, the Senate committee in Tennessee approved a bill that would ban teachers from discussing homosexuality with children in elementary and middle school, allowing it to move to a full Senate vote. Senate Bill 49, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, argues that talk about any form of sexuality other than heterosexuality falls outside of the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education. An amendment to the bill requires investigation into whether teachers really are talking about homosexuality with their students, but even so, a teacher discussing homosexuality could be slapped with a misdemeanor, should the bill become law.
Republic Senator Stacey Campbell has spent six years pushing this bill, which he says isn’t discriminatory because it prevents people who are against homosexuality from airing their views just as much as it prohibits those in favor. Homosexuality, he says, should be a non-issue because teaching basic human reproduction doesn’t require an explanation of homosexuality.
Opponents of the bill, like the Tennessee Equality Project, argue that not only will it prevent any discussion of homosexuality from appropriate classroom lessons, but it will also limit any discussion of gay issues or sexuality with students who might be questioning their own sexuality, have gay parents, or have witnessed or participated in homophobic bullying. Um, have we completely forgotten the recent, tragic rash of bullying and suicides of gay teens?!
This bill smacks of discrimination and hypocrisy. To leave homosexuality out of any classroom discussion until legislators believe kids are old enough to somehow “not be swayed” sends the message that gay people are at best unimportant and at worst unacceptable. This measure is especially harmful at a time when kids are coming out at younger and younger ages. Plus, research into the family life curriculum, which predictably emphasizes abstinence until marriage, shows a strong emphasis on HIV/AIDS education prevention. How is it even remotely possible to give students full and accurate information about the nature and prevention of HIV and STDs without addressing homosexuality at all?
Do you think teachers should be forbidden to discuss homosexuality before the ninth grade?