Tennessee Senate passes hateful bill allowing parents to pull kids out of LGBT-inclusive education

A non-binary teacher has been fired for using gender-neutral pronouns as their Florida school.

In the “State of Hate” Tennessee, Senate lawmakers moved Monday (5 April) to let parents and guardians opt their kids out of LGBT-inclusive curriculums.

SB 1229 requires local education authorities and public charter schools to alert parents and guardians in advance whether a class will teach about LGBT+ lives. 

They will be told at least 30 days ahead of the class if teaching materials will include anything about gender identity or sexual orientation, regardless of whether or not the class is part of a sex education program.

And a clause that has fuelled alarm among advocacy groups, the right for them to excuse their children from any of these classes – and schools can do nothing to stop them.

The Republican-dominated Senate passed the proposal 24-6. With the bill cleared by the Senate, it must now be passed by the GOP-controlled House.

If enacted, parents and guardians would also be given the option to scrutinise teaching materials and air concerns to educators, counsellors and the school’s principal.

Even then, the bill stresses that making curriculums inclusive of LGBT+ lives isn’t even a requirement for education authorities.

Tennessee Democrats say bill would ‘cancel LGBT+ people’

Backers of the bill sought to paint it as a way to strengthen parental rights – opponents, however, warned that it amounts to “cancelling LGBT+ people”.

Indeed, all of Tennessee’s Senate Democrats united in opposition to the bill. “[LGBT+] students in Tennessee are already heavily stigmatized,” warned senator Sarak Kyle on the house floor.

Kyle warned that the bill will just be another “drain” for principals and school administrator already dealing with threadbare budgets.

“Instead of just trying to shield students from this, they need to be prepared for the world they are going to exist in,” noted senator Raumesh Akbari. “It puts [LGBT+ students], it makes them appear as something that can be opted out of.

“I think that is truly unfair to those children and it does create a stigma that is not something that children should have to deal in with school.”

When sponsor senator Paul Rose was pressed by Democrat Heidi Campbell on whether he spoke to any queer people – any at all – when drafting the legislation, he replied bluntly: “I did not.”

“We talk a lot about cancel culture,” Campbell hit back, “and this seems like a ‘cancel culture’ bill. We can’t cancel LGBT+ people – eventually, these views will seem outmoded.

She added: “If we’re writing a bill that stigmatises someone’s very existence as inappropriate for discussion, maybe there’s something wrong with that.”

“These bills disadvantage LGBT+ kids who may not have supportive families and put every child at greater risk of health consequences,” the Human Rights Campaign tweeted.

The proposed legislation would tweak a section of the Tennessee Code on the “Family Life Curriculum”, which offers educators a state-approved blueprint for teaching about sex and relationships.

SB 1229 is not the only anti-LGBT+ bill in the docket. HB 800 is currently inching closer to becoming law – it would ban all books in public schools that promote “LGBT+ issues and lifestyles”, which, it says, are “inappropriate”.