Target: Tennessee Legislature
Goal: Maintain the trust between school officials and students and allow teachers to answer questions about homosexuality
Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield of Tennessee has reintroduced his infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, with a troubling new clause. Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was a source of controversy when it was first introduced, and Campfield has introduced and reintroduced the law every chance he’s gotten during his nine years in the legislature. The original bill prohibited school discussions on homosexuality up until the eighth grade and was specifically targeted at sex education classes. The bill passed in the Senate, but ultimately died in the House.
The bill justifies its prohibition of discussion of homosexuality by claiming that “resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.” But now, Campfield’s new and improved “Don’t Say Gay” bill includes a disturbing new component. The bill, deceptively called the “Classroom Protection Act,” now seeks to require school nurses and guidance professionals to notify the parents of any student they work with who identifies as gay or questioning.
The text of the bill, after referring to a scenario easily interpreted as a student struggling with their sexuality seeking help, states: “Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.”
Campfield, the man who has said repeatedly that it is “virtually impossible” to contract HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex, is clearly doubling down on his anti-LGBT agenda. Campfield has come under fire for egregious comments about homosexuality in the past, such as, “[Homosexuals] do not naturally reproduce. It has not been proven that it is nature. It happens in nature, but so does bestiality.”
Senator Campfield has recognized that “bullying is the biggest lark out there.” Yet, his bill further isolates LGBT students and does not allow students to acquire the type of information that could help them eschew bullying later on. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill was offensive and regressive enough in its original form, but the new component is an egregious violation of a student’s privacy. The requirement is detrimental in trying to help children struggling with their sexuality. Often young people are afraid to disclose this information to their parents for fear of rejection and possibly even violence. Students should feel that school is a safe space, where they can seek help and be protected.
Tell the Tennessee legislature to reject this harmful bill and protect LGBT students and discussion of LGBT issues in public schools.
Dear Tennessee Legislature,
It is particularly striking that Senator Campfield recognizes the gravity of bullying in America today, yet, chooses to champion legislation that promotes ignorance and misinformation. Human sexuality is an essential part of life, and it is crucial to help young people develop a healthy attitude toward such issues through dialogue with trusted adults. Prohibiting such discussions is not protecting children; it is limiting them from developing the skills to think critically about the world about them.
Most importantly, the new component of Senator Campfield’s bill will irreparably harm children already struggling with their sexuality, who are frequently depressed, confused and unsure about where to turn. Without an outlet in schools, children who are not ready to come out to their parents will have nowhere to go and feel further alienated from their peers. Students struggling with their sexuality should not be made to feel as though they deserve to be punished for coming out.
Schools are supposed to be safe havens and should permit discussions of sexuality when they come up in an honest, age-appropriate way. We must raise our children to be tolerant, global citizens, who respect all of their brothers and sisters. By further stigmatizing the LGBT community and forbidding educators from discussing important issues with their students, we are doing our children a grave injustice. Please reject Senator Campfield’s bill and continue to work toward educating the children of your state in a way that reflections the American values of equality and acceptance.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: english wikipedia project