Proposed “Don’t Say Gay” Rewrite Gets All Schools Involved

NASHVILLE – A proposed rewrite of so-called “don’t say gay” legislation calls for local school systems to make decisions on discussion of homosexuality in classrooms under guidelines set forth in the revised legislation.
The guidelines would allow teachers to “answer in good faith” questions on the subject posed to an instructor by a student or students. They also authorize school guidance counselors, nurses and others to deal with students “whose circumstances present issues involving human sexuality.”
The bill (SB49) was scheduled for debate Wednesday in the House Education Committee, but was postponed until next week after Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, announced that he had produced an amendment to rewrite the bill.
The Associated Press reports that the start of the committee meeting was delayed 15 minutes while Republicans huddled in Speaker Beth Harwell’s office with an unidentified member of the Haslam administration to discuss the governor’s concerns with the bill.
As approved by the Senate last year, the measure declares that “any instruction or materials made available or provided at or to a public elementary or middle school shall be limited exclusively to natural human reproduction science.” The provision, which supporters say would apply to discussions of homosexuality, would apply in grades kindergarten through eight.
As rewritten by the proposed amendment, the bill requires all school systems to adopt “policies and procedures” to assure that discussions of sexuality “are age appropriate for the intended student audiences.” The policies and procedures are to be in place by January, 2013.
Discussions “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” are deemed “inappropriate” in grades k-8 under the proposal. But the amendment goes on to state that local education agencies cannot prohibit:
-“Any instructor from answering in good faith any question or series of questions, germane and material to the course, asked of the instructor and initiated by a student or students enrolled in the course.”
-“Any school counselor, nurse or other authorized employee of the LEA (local education agency) from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person.”
-“Any school counselor, nurse or other authorized employee of the LEA from appropriately responding to a student whose circumstances present issues involving human sexuality.”
Dunn, who last week argued that would not have many of the impacts that opponents claim, said the amendment “just spells out what I said” and incorporates it into the proposed law.
“People are saying that people can’t talk,” he said. “This says, yes, they can,” under specified circumstances.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, also announced at Wednesday committee meeting that he has prepared an amendment to the bill that would specifically declare provisions of the measure would have no impact on an “anti-bullying” law enacted in the last legislative session.

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