There is a preposterously detrimental bill brewing in Tennessee, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This bill is a revived and modified version of the bill Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield proposed in 2011, which threatened to bar teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom in grades K-8.
Originally this bill had been put to rest by the House after making it past the Senate, but has now since been put back on the table with a malicious new twist: teachers could be forced to out homosexual students, or students who are even just suspected of being gay.
Stacey Campfield’s modified Bill S.B. 0234, which he dubbed the Classroom Protection Act, targets LGBTQ youth and could result in devastating and irrevocable consequences for the affected students.
There are a few key phrases to note in this bill:
“The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home. Because of its complex societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications, human sexuality is one such subject.” [Bold added]
[…] “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.” [Bold added]
Given Stacey Campfield’s track record we don’t have to read between the lines too much to assume that “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” directly targets homosexuality. Just wait folks, it gets worse…the newly concocted version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been adjusted slightly to incorporate this section:
“LEA policies and procedures adopted pursuant to this section shall not prohibit”[…]”A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred”.
How can we assume that Campfield is including homosexuality as being “injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student”? Well, Stacey Campfield isn’t very subtle, and was quoted as saying: “The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.” [See video at 1:09 minutes in]
This all would imply that faculty members cannot acknowledge the existence of homosexuality…unless, of course, a student is suspected or engaged in homosexual behaviour, and that, of course, warrants immediate parental notification. This bill does not prohibit the counseling of students, but a complete breach of student-counselor trust will be enforced. This sounds like a grossly blatant disregard for common sense and civil rights!
If this bill passes it will undoubtedly create an environment of constant fear and apprehension for LGBTQ students. I cannot stress enough how psychologically damaging it will be if these kids cannot seek confidential counseling, discuss and pose questions about their sexuality and feel like they are a part of a supportive environment. School should be a place where students can feel safe to learn and explore knowledge.
So, what’s going on Tennessee? Despite the growing number of anti-bullying campaigns that have been prevalent in the U.S over the past few years, gay teen suicides are a major issue. The Southern states aren’t known for their inclusivity of homosexuality and this bill will only instigate bullying and further alienation of LGBTQ students. Somehow, segregating a demographic of youth and instilling the belief that their sexuality, or questioning of their sexuality, is fundamentally wrong, doesn’t seem like a productive way to get teen suicide figures to decrease.
The state of acceptance for the LGBTQ community is volatile in the Southern states and a measure like this would only cause regression and devastation to the gay community. This bill would actively work on destroying progress made by anti-bullying campaigns, essentially giving bullies a green light to single out students suspected of homosexuality and consequently land them in the dangerous situation of being prematurely outed to their parents.
Unfortunately, being outed can come with grave consequences, often resulting in rejection from the home. Recent studies done by The Williams Institute, the Palette Fund and the True Colors Fund, have found that 40% of homeless youth in the shelter system identify as being LGBT.
It is a horrifying thought that this bill could actually pass, and we can only hope that the erroneous and harmful implementations contained in this bill will never come to fruition.
* Top image by Jason Pence McBroom, Out & About