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TTPC: Back-to-School Review of Last Year’s Transphobic, Homophobic Events

Press release from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition; July 31, 2012: 

Across the state of Tennessee, several school districts start the 20112-2013 school year this week. The past year saw a plethora of transphobic and homophobic actions in every part of Tennessee, and at least four LGBT identified students committed suicide.

Cheatham County
One of the smallest school districts had two LGBT identified students commit suicide in the past year due to incidents of bullying. Sadly, when a group of students and adults asked the school board to strengthen their anti bullying policy, the school board sat in stony silence during their testimony, and only responded positively when the school board attorney assured them that their policy was “adequate.”

Hardin County
The Southern Poverty Law Center was forced to step in and defend a student at Hardin County High School who wished to wear pro-equality slogans on her clothing.

Henderson County
A male student at Lexington High School was suspended for wearing makeup in an attempt to impose conformity in gender expression.

Loudon County
After student at Lenoir City High School published an article in the yearbook titled “It’s OK to be Gay,” the Loudon County School Board chair called for a criminal investigation of the faculty advisor for permitting such talk of tolerance of diversity.

McMinn County
A female high school student was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted bullet wound in Athens after reports of bullying.

Monroe County
A 17 year old student at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, was physically assaulted by his principal last week for wearing a T-shirt in support of efforts to establish a gay-straight alliance club on campus.

Smith County
Phillip Parker of Gordonsville commited suicide after reports of bullying. His death was publicly announced at an anti-bullying conference in Cookeville.

Wilson County
Attempts by a student to organize a Gay Straight Alliance at Wilson Central High School were publicly rebuffed by both the Wilson County School Director and the Wilson County School Board Chair.

Despite the bad news, there have been some positives this past year. Putnam County became only the fourth school district in the state, after Memphis, Metro Nashville, and Knox County, to adopt a fully inclusive, anti-bullying policy, students in Sumner County organized a “NoH8 Campaign,” and several Legislative Interns working in the General Assembly posted their own It Gets Better video in the midst of the most anit-LGBT legislative session in the state’s history.

As we begin the new school year, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition urges all to be proactive in pushing your local school board to address the epidemic of bullying LGBT students. Every student should feel safe at school and have the opportunity to express themselves without fear of harrassment.

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Press Releases

Government to Parents: Vaccinate Children Before School Year

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Health; July 9, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Parents working on checklists to get their children ready for the start of school have an important health item to include: required immunizations. In Tennessee, children enrolling in school for the first time and all children going into 7th grade must provide schools with a state immunization certificate before classes start as proof they have had immunizations necessary to protect them and their classmates from serious vaccine-preventable diseases.

“We understand the challenges of getting children ready to start school; having immunization certificates completed and ready helps make the start of school go more smoothly,” said Kelly Moore, MD, MPH, medical director of the Tennessee Immunization Program. “Getting vaccinated is a safe and simple way to protect us all from potentially deadly diseases, and it helps ensure children won’t miss important classroom time due to a preventable illness.”

Most insurance plans, including TennCare, fully cover recommended and state-required childhood vaccines, as well as the cost of annual well child examinations through the age of 21. Insured children are encouraged to visit their primary healthcare provider or other provider who can administer vaccines and bill insurance for any services they might need. TDH strongly recommends a visit to the child’s primary care provider so the child can have an annual well child physical exam at the same time. Annual wellness visits are important to keep children healthy through all the changes of the pre-teen and teenage years, but many don’t get these important preventive health services.

Local health departments have vaccines available for all uninsured children, those whose insurance doesn’t cover vaccines, and any child who has difficulty getting in to see a healthcare provider to get a required vaccine. Local health departments can issue immunization certificates and transcribe immunization records for any child if the family isn’t able to get a certificate from their healthcare provider for any reason.

It is important to note that certain important vaccines are recommended, but not required, for pre-teens and teens, and that most teens are missing at least one vaccine recommended to protect their health. These include a vaccine against certain types of meningitis and the HPV vaccine against viruses that cause cervical cancer in women and other cancers in men. Many teens have missed out on getting a second dose of chickenpox vaccine or the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster shot (Tdap), both of which are now required for 7th graders. Parents should talk to their healthcare provider about vaccines their child may need to stay healthy, even if not required for school.

The complete list of Tennessee Child Care and School Immunization requirements is available on the TDH website at: http://health.state.tn.us/TWIS/requirements.htm. Questions about school policies on when or how immunization certificates must be provided should be directed to local schools.

“Thanks to the cooperative work of primary care providers, families, schools and local health departments, Tennessee has very high immunization rates among our school children, which saves lives and protects their health,” Moore said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels; in order to eliminate the needless burden of vaccine-preventable diseases, we have to make sure all children are vaccinated on time with the vaccines recommended for them. This effort to defeat vaccine-preventable disease begins again with each child born in Tennessee and continues for a lifetime.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.