Published April 26, 2011
Public school teachers in Tennessee could lose their tenure or their jobs for discussing homosexuality with their students under a new bill.
The state Senate will soon vote on a bill, known as "Don’t Say Gay," that would prohibit educators from "the teaching or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8."
The Senate Education Committee passed the bill last week, 6-3.
The author of the bill, state Sen. Stacey Campfield, has been trying to advance the bill for several years as member of the House. But he only got momentum when Republicans won control of the governor's mansion, House and Senate in November for the first time since the Civil War-era.
Campfield said his bill aims to stop gay-rights activists from pushing their agenda in the classroom. He cited children's programming that taught homosexuality and said "several" teachers have informed him that they're already teaching the material.
He also cited cases in Massachusetts and California. In Lexington, Mass., the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, a couple sued after their 5-year-old son brought home a book from kindergarten that described a gay family. Another couple joined the lawsuit after a second-grade teacher read the class a fairy tale about two princes falling in love.
A federal judge though, threw out the lawsuit in 2007 saying that parents' rights to exercise their religious beliefs are not violated when their children are exposed to contrary ideas in school. The Supreme Court refused to take up the case.
In California, schools have addressed topics such as gay households, homophobia and sexual orientation for years in an effort to battle anti-gay discrimination. Children as young as 5 are taught about gay issues in some school districts.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's coming," Campfield said.
Campfield told FoxNews.com that he has gotten hundreds of letter from around the world that are either hate-filled or asking him why he proposed the bill.
"Schools shouldn't be advocating for or against homosexuality," he said.
The Tennessee Equality Project, a gay-rights organization, condemned the bill.
"We believe it's a ploy to advance a social agenda into the classroom," Chairman Jonathan Cole told FoxNews.com. "And we think it will create an unsafe environment for kids who may be gay, lesbian, transgender or just have questions."
Cole took issue with how broad the bill is written, arguing that it effectively prohibits all educators, including guidance counselors, from talking about homosexuality with students.
"So if they witness a kid being bullied because of sexual orientation, how will they be able to deal with that?" he said, adding that the bill would increase the risk of suicide among gay children.
"Why is it that legislators are trying to micromanage curriculum?" he said, charging Campfield with failing to produce evidence that this is a problem in schools. "Why don't they leave it to local schools boards?"
But Campfield said his bill won't prevent educators from addressing bullying and that families should ultimately decide when their kids should receive sex education.
"This is stopping the advocating of one point of view over another," he said.