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Shhh! ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Advances in Tennessee

By Catherine Gewertz — April 21, 2011 1 min read

Students can ask, but teachers can’t tell: A bill that prohibits elementary and middle school teachers from mentioning gay sexuality to students has advanced in Tennessee.

As amended this week, the measure, nicknamed the “don’t say gay” bill, directs the state board of education to find out whether discussion of homosexuality is occurring in K-8 classrooms, and, if it is, to ban it as being outside the scope of the schools’ family life curriculum.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield, contends that it should be up to families to discuss any sexual behavior other than heterosexuality with their children.

The don’t-say-gay action in Tennessee unfolds as the opposite advances in California. A plan approved by the state Senate earlier this month would require public schools there to incorporate the history of gay people into social studies classes.

It adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people—and people with disabilities—to an already long list of groups whose roles and contributions must be “accurately portrayed” in social science instruction and instructional materials. It would also bar the state or school districts from adopting textbooks or other instructional materials that “reflect adversely” upon a person’s sexual orientation.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.