Tennessee: ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill revived, now requires students to be outed to parents

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A Republican Senator in Tennessee has revived a bill proposing to limit mentions of homosexuality in schools, with an added clause that would order schools to report any student’s “gay activity” to their parents.

Stacey Campfield first introduced the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2008 and revived it in 2011, but it failed to get off the ground after its sponsor “decided simply not to bring it up” in the State House in 2012. It had originally prohibited discussion of same-sex relationships in schools before the eighth grade.

On Wednesday, Mr Campfield introduced the Classroom Protection Act, which contains much of the same content as his earlier bill.

A section of the Act reads: “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.”

The bill now states further that parents must be informed if a student talks to a teacher or school counsellor about any activity that presents “immediate and urgent safety issues”.

Mr Campfield clarified that this would include any sexual behaviour with a member of the same sex, as “the act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.”

This effectively means that teachers would be required to tell parents if their child confides in them about being gay or bisexual.

Critics have argued that this would cut off a source of information and support from students who may not wish to be outed to their parents.

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project said of the bill: “It’s kind of like ‘Don’t Say Gay’ on steroids. He’s listened to the objections and ended up making it worse.”

This week, Mr Campfield has also introduced a bill that would make families on welfare receive fewer benefits if their children have a poor academic record.

His previous track record on LGBT issues includes comparing homosexuality to bestiality, and claiming that it is “virtually impossible” to contract HIV through heterosexual sex.