Republicans who dominate the Tennessee Legislature have moved one step closer towards passing a bill that would interdict elementary and middle school teachers from discussing homosexuality and gender identity.
Dubbed by critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, it “prohibits the teaching or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.” The bill is also thought to be something of a redundancy, as it’s already illegal in the state to teach sex education before high school. Schools caught in violation of this law can already have their state donation withheld, and teachers face a $50 fine with the possibility of ending up in jail for 30 days.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Joey Hensley, who has said that he has “two children—in the third- and fourth-grade—and [I] don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t agree with,” which has prompted opponents to complain that school curricula should not be altered to reflect individual legislators’ personal prejudices.
That said, mainstream media commentators in the US note that this should not be considered a surprise, as earlier this month, the governor signed into law that allowed teachers to challenge the “scientific weaknesses” of such topics as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” The sponsors of this legislation, as with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, say that the mission behind such bills is to foster “critical thinking.”