With the help of Senator Stacey Campfield, the Tennessee State Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that prohibits public school teachers from discussing homosexuality in grades kindergarten through eight. Senator Campfield has been pushing the bill, SB 49, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, for six years and it was finally approved on a six to three vote. The committee is requiring the Board of Education to study whether homosexuality is actually being taught in schools, but it will still institute a ban February 1 of next year. Some are pleased by this newly passed bill and don’t want children learning about alternative lifestyles at such a young age, while others are worried that it will increase bullying and leave some children feeling ostracized.
Campfield says that he’s not homophobic; it’s just that the issue is “complex.” While he does have a point, in the long run is this bill really what’s best for children? The number of gay youth suicides is already on the rise, in September 2010 alone there were at least six. One of which was Asher Brown who was only 13 years old, making this bill applicable to kids like him. If children around age 13 are old enough to harass and bully a gay teen to death, they are certainly old enough to learn about this “complex” issue.
If a child is being bullied because of their sexuality, does this bill mean they can no longer confide in their teachers? Most adults feel children in elementary and middle school are too young to be questioning their sexuality, which may be true, but that doesn’t stop them from harassing one another with hurtful homosexual slurs. Those harassed students will have one less place to go to for support and protection if it is illegal for their teachers to discuss the matter with them. There are also students with parents living an alternative lifestyle that might feel confused and ashamed because they only learn about heterosexual relationships in school.
If public schools are going to teach sexual education, they should teach all aspects of it and not just certain parts. The whole reason schools even have sexual education classes are to protect the youth and prevent them from making harmful decisions when it comes to sex. Sex is a part of relationships, heterosexual or not, and children should be aware of the dangers involved.
According to researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health, by age 12, 12 percent of students have already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and 4 percent in all three types of intercourse.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill isn’t protecting anyone, but rather endangering more than a few.