Tennessee "Don't Say Gay" bill could require schools to out their students

Language in the bill also appears to endorse counseling for students who are "at risk" of being LGBT

Published January 30, 2013 7:16PM (EST)

    (Tennessee state legislature)
(Tennessee state legislature)

If you thought that you'd heard the last of Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill after state lawmakers abandoned the legislation last year, think again.

It's back. And it's awful.

The measure still prohibits elementary and middle school teachers from discussing sexual activity that is not related to “natural human reproduction” or even acknowledging that homosexuality exists, but new language in the bill would require school officials to tell parents when students are -- or might be -- gay:

The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home. Because of its complex societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications, human sexuality is one such subject. Human sexuality is best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp its complexity and implications...

A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal 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; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.

In addition to requiring school officials to out students to their parents, the legislation also appears to endorse so-called conversion therapy ("counseling" in the bill's nomenclature), in which psychologists and psychiatrists (not to mention would-be Republican presidential nominees) try to change the recipients sexual orientation.

An unsafe home or school environment is the most common reason for leaving home given by homeless LGBT youth, who comprise 40% of all homeless young people in the United States.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Anti-gay Laws Gay Gay Rights Homophobia Lgbt Lgbtq