A new Tennessee bill would make it so that teachers do not have to go along with a student’s preferred pronoun if it does not match their biological sex.
The bill, known as SB 2777, applies to all employees of public schools and local education agencies, and says that they would not be "civilly liable for using a pronoun that is consistent with the biological sex of the student to whom the teacher or employee is referring, even if the pronoun is not the student's preferred pronoun."
The bill also says that teachers and other school employees would not be "subject to adverse employment action" for not using a student’s preferred pronoun if it does not match their sex.
The Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee noted that the bill could have severe consequences if it becomes law.
"If found in violation of federal law, this legislation could jeopardize federal funding in FY22-23 and subsequent years," a February fiscal note on the bill from the committee said.
The note pointed to a U.S. Department of Education letter from June 2021 that said the Biden administration views illegal sex discrimination under Title IX to include discrimination based on gender identity. The note also cited a Department of Education fact sheet bearing the title "supporting Transgender Youth in School," which calls on schools to have policies that "respect all students’ gender identities" by using a student’s preferred name and pronouns.
The committee noted that the bill, if passed, could limit the state education department’s office for civil rights’ "ability to develop corrective action plans" that would make schools have their staff use a student’s preferred pronouns.
As a result, they said, it could violate Title IX and would put at risk the state’s federal funding, which for the current school year is more than $5 billion.