On Wednesday, a committee of the Tennessee State Senate passed measure SB49 which would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality to students in grades kindergarten through eight. The bill, dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill, is now on the Senate floor and is sponsored by Republican Senator Stacey Campfield. And apparently he feels pretty strongly about it. Campfield has tried in vain to push the same bill through the state House for six years before he was elected to the Senate.
And I’m honestly not sure which is stranger: the bill itself, or the convoluted manner in which it was approved.
According to KnoxNews political blogger, Tom Humphrey, when the bill came before the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Tracy, a Republican from Shelbyville, believed that TN state law already prohibited this type of instruction “by deeming it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the ‘family life curriculum’ adopted by the state Board of Education.”
So Tracy proposed an amendment to the “don’t say gay” bill which would require the TN Board of Education to investigate as to whether or not any homosexual teaching is currently occurring. If so, the amendment stipulated that the board should recommend how to remedy the situation.
Campfield contends that homosexuality is currently being discussed in Tennessee classrooms, though both the Board of Education and the Department of Education went on record as saying they were unaware of such teachings.
In spite of Campfield’s objections, the Tracy amendment passed.
But wait, there’s more:
“…then Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, proposed to change the Tracy amendment. The revision declares that, after its study to be completed by Feb. 1 of next year, the Board of Education ‘shall adopt’ – as part of the family life curriculum – a ban on discussion of homosexuality in the same language used in Campfield’s bill.
“That amendment was adopted, too, and the revised bill was then approved 6-3 and sent to the Senate floor.”
Confused? Me, too. But not just on the logistics of how it passed.
I’m also confused on why it passed. In fact, I have several questions: First, exactly how much discussion of sexuality is going on in grades K-8? I mean, are they going with lots of heterosexual discussions, too? Or is it strictly homosexual discussions? Or could it be that the conversations are mainly centered on (wild guess here) science? Or math? Or history, maybe?
Here’s another question: if there is the occasional discussion about homosexuality, say, in context of gay marriage, then…who cares? I mean seriously, what’s the big deal?
From reading all the comments on the KnoxNews piece, I gather that proponents of the measure would dismiss the seemingly obvious homophobic angle and instead argue that the bill is designed to keep the classroom focus on education as opposed to having it veer off into societal issues.
So does that mean my daughter can’t learn about Dr. Martin Luther King next February? I sure hope not. But the civil rights movement is a societal issue.
Yet another question: what is it about the ninth grade? Is that the magic age when kids are allowed to discuss *shhh* homosexuality? OH, and if, as proponents would allege, this bill isn’t about discriminating against homosexuality, but rather one to make sure we stay on task with education, then why lift the ban in ninth grade? Isn’t that when our young students really get to the bulk of their studies? OH, and if we need to keep the focus locked and loaded on education, shouldn’t we ban conversations on heterosexuality, too? Until ninth grade, that is, when apparently, it’s okay to talk about *shhh* homosexuality?
You know what I think? I think folks behind bills such as this one, regardless of what they say, are homophobic. Whether they’re Republican, Democrats, Libertarians, or Independents. It’s 2011, folks. Open your minds a bit, please. This isn’t your grandparents’ society anymore.
Besides, do we not trust our teachers to have discussions with our children on any number of societal topics as they come up? And if so, then what’s different about discussions pertaining to homosexuality? Do some people really think that exposure to conversations will “make our kids gay” and that avoidance of such topics will “keep our kids straight”? Do people really still think like that?
Gimme a break.
If it were up to me, I’d let teachers discuss whatever it is they feel they need to discuss as it pertains to our society whenever it is they feel the need to discuss it. Putting homosexuality in a box and slapping a note on it that reads “don’t open until 15 years of age” just doesn’t make sense to me.
But, apparently, it makes sense to Stacey Campfield. Because he’s been hard at work on this bill for quite some time.
In a related story, still no word on whether or not Campfield regularly refers to women as “broads” after playfully slapping their asses.
Okay, that last line was a joke. Just like the “don’t say gay” bill.