Last week, Sen. Stacey Campfield, a Republican from Tennessee, made headlines again with his controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The proposal, very similar to his previously-sponsored bill that died in the Tennessee Senate last year, would prohibit K-8 teachers from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. The most terrifying aspect, for both teachers and students, is the included provision that states that teachers/school officials must inform a student’s parents if he/she comes forward and confides that he/she might be gay.
That’s right! If this bill passes, a teacher would legally have to “out” a child to his or her parents! As an educator and a human being, this absolutely appalls me. And to make matters worse, Sen. Campfield is claiming that his reasoning behind this “Don’t Say Gay” bill is for “classroom protection.” This coming from a man who has stated on numerous occasions that homosexuality is dangerous to a child’s health.
Thankfully this version of “Don’t Say Gay” isn’t garnering much support within the State Senate, but the repercussions of this bill could be detrimental. It’s often said that teaching is a calling. We don’t go into education for the perks, and we certainly don’t do it for the money. We became teachers because we love working with young people, challenging them and watching them grow into the future leaders of this country. But teaching is so much more than bookwork and tests – it’s also about building positive relationships with students. I want my students to know that they can trust me and come to me if they are having problems. For teachers in Tennessee, if this bill passes, that trust would go out the window if a student confided that he or she might be gay.
Our students have more to worry about today than ever. Drug use, peer pressure, family situations, and relationships are constantly on their minds. For LGBT students, there’s an even deeper struggle of self-identity. If Senator Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill were to pass, it would be these students who would suffer the most. We should be encouraging diversity and embracing the differences between each other instead of finding ways to silence the unique qualities that make us who we are.