Sex-Education Bill Held Over

The House Education Committee Tuesday delayed action on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, calling off what has become a weekly event on Capitol Hill.

Bill sponsor Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, told TNReport he rolled the bill because of an amendment proposed by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, which rewrites the bill in an attempt to clarify its aim.

The meeting was delayed for 15 minutes as no Republican members were yet present. They were reportedly meeting in Speaker Beth Harwell’s office with a member of the Haslam administration who relayed the governor’s concerns about the bill.

Haslam told reporters last month that such legislation shouldn’t be a priority for lawmakers this session.

The amendment rewrites the bill so that it would require local school systems to adopt “policies and procedures” to ensure that any discussion of human sexuality is “age-appropriate for the intended student audience.” A subsequent section of the amendment states that instruction or materials “inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate” and prohibited before ninth grade.

Additional subsections of the proposed amendment essentially mirror arguments made last week by Dunn, when he attempted to quell what he called “hysteria” about the bill’s implications. The amendment states that the aforementioned policies and procedures shall not prohibit teachers from answering “in good faith” any relevant questions from students or keep school counselors from helping at-risk students or “appropriately responding to a student whose circumstances present issues involving human sexuality.”

In a House subcommittee meeting last week, Dunn argued that the bill – in its current form – was in line with current curriculum. He said adding the bill’s language to the code would simply slow down any future attempt by the state’s Board of Education to change the curriculum by making it so that they must come to legislators first.

Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier told TNReport Tuesday that, as currently written, “the bill is consistent with the state’s current curriculum as established by the state board of education.”