A bill that would prohibit elementary and middle school teachers from discussing any form of sexuality that is not considered natural reproduction with students was reintroduced in the Tennessee state Senate.
SB 234, titled the “Classroom Protection Act” [PDF] but nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, reads “The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home… 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.” SB 234 specifically targets kindergarten through eighth grade classes.
The new 2013 “Don’t Say Gay” bill includes a new clause that could require teachers and school staff to inform parents if their child identifies as or is assumed to be LGBTQ. Listed as an exception from prohibited discussion on sexuality is “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.. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.” No further guidelines of what behavior constitutes a reason for is given, which would enable teachers to determine these criteria themselves.
The original “Don’t Say Gay” bill advanced out of the Tennessee state Senate’s Education Committee on a 6 to 3 party line vote in 2011, but died on the Senate floor without being brought to a vote in 2012. In Tennessee, it is already illegal to teach sex education that is outside of the State Board of Education’s “family life curriculum,” which excludes any reference to homosexuality.