On Tuesday, February 28, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will be re-visited in the House Education Committee. Rumor has it that new amendments will hypothetically allow school staff to “say gay” under certain conditions. Sponsor Bill Dunn says his changes should dispel the “hysteria” that the bill has spawned.
Trying to address the legitimate concerns that this bill raises about educators’ ability to respond appropriately to anti-LGBT bullying is far from “hysterical.”
Tell legislators that the intolerant climate the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will foster in public schools is deeply troubling, not something to be downplayed or dismissed.
Even if amended, this bill is so tainted by its original wording and intent to ban any discussion of sexual orientation that its passage will still send the wrong message to schoolchildren: that a particular group of people are not worthy of recognition or even mention in their day-to-day lives.
Furthermore, schoolchildren, even those in elementary and middle school, deal with language and issues related to sexual orientation all the time. A recent GLSEN study found that nearly half of the elementary school students surveyed heard negative comments using the word “gay” often or all the time. This bill would interfere with educators’ ability to respond appropriately and promote safe schools for all students.
Even Governor Haslam says that he thinks the legislature has better things to focus on than this bill. However, sponsor Joey Hensley says that he will move forward with the bill regardless of the governor’s position.
This bill passed the Senate last May, and the legislature’s continuing movement on this bill has made national headlines, embarrassing Tennessee in the public eye well beyond our state borders.