Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a law on Friday banning schools in the state from teaching students about “gateway sexual activity” in sex education classes. According to drafters of the bill, so-called gateway sexual activity includes any type of “intentional touching of the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast of a human being.” Under the signed bill, HB 3621/ SB 3310, sex-ed classes will be required to “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience.” The bill passed the House in a 68-23 vote and the Senate in a 29-1 vote.
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis Region, Barry Chase, said in a statement statement, “Most parents in Tennessee want students to get comprehensive sexuality education that includes messages about prevention as well as abstinence. They expect that the schools will equip their young people with the information they need to protect themselves. This bill ties the hands of educators in Tennessee and will prevent them from providing the comprehensive education that students want and need and their parents expect.”
Under the law, teachers or outside educators can be fined as much as $500 for violating the law. Opponents have criticized the bill for being vague and making it so that teachers can’t even mention hand-holding and kissing in sex-ed classes.
MSNBC 5/14/12; ABC News 5/13/12; Reuters 5/11/12; Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis Region Press Release 5/11/12