NASHVILLE, Tenn — Another new version of Tennessee‘s Classroom Protection Act, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, would require teachers to send gay students to see a psychiatrist.
The bill, which has languished in the state legislature for more than five years, proposes to limit all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), the original architect of the bill, re-introduced the measure (SB 0234) on January 29, with a provision that would require school officials to “out” LGBT students to their parents by informing them if a student discusses his or her sexual orientation.
Now, a House version of the bill (HB 1332), sponsored by Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge, Tenn.), includes a proposed the psychiatric referral amendment.
The House version would require teachers, counselors and principals would be asked to give students a referral for psychiatric care if they bring up mental health or “lifestyle issues,” such as homosexuality.
Critics say the amendment would discourage students from discussing their problems with those they trust.
Ragan says that school counselors are only “licensed, hired and paid to be counseling on academic and career education.”
“We do not pay them nor license them to counsel on anything else,” he said.
Article continues belowSince the bill was first introduced in 2008 by Campfield (then a representative in the state House), critics have charged that the measure is unnecessary, as state education officials have publicly said that alternative lifestyle discussions are already banned from the state school’s curricula guidelines.
A 2011 version of the bill would have allowed students to ask teachers or guidance counselors questions about “alternative lifestyles,” but prohibited teaching homosexuality “as an acceptable lifestyle.”
The Tennessean has called this latest version “as pointless as the original.”
Campfield “just can’t quite get this detested piece of legislation to pass, but like a dog with a bone, just won’t let it go,” the Nashville newspaper said, in an op-ed this week. Campfield and Ragan “seem to have concocted legislation that would prevent demons from their own imagination — evil teachers and guidance counselors, warping the minds of children.”
The House version of the bill has been referred to the Education Subcommittee and scheduled to be heard on March 19. The Senate version was referred to the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 31, and there has been no action since.
The bills can be tracked here.