It has been nearly 90 years since the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, which made the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, the laughing stock of the nation, as they successfully punished a science teacher for teaching evolution. The state is at it again, only this time the reality that is being prohibited is homosexuality.
The Tennessee Senate has approved Senator Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prohibit K-8 teachers from acknowledging that there is such a thing as homosexuality. The bill outlaws any curriculum or discussion of “any sexuality other than heterosexuality,” ostensibly to protect children from the complex and confusing nature of homosexuality. The law would also prevent counselors from discussing homosexuality with gay and questioning youth. The bill won’t go before the House until next year.
Contrary to the misinformation put out by the law’s backers, the law does not put into place reasonable controls over the discussion of a controversial topic at school—it seeks to completely eliminate all discussion of the topic. If a child complains to a teacher or counselor that he or she has been bullied because of their actual (or perceived) sexuality, they will be out of luck--their counselors and teachers will be saying “lalalalalala” with their fingers in their ears. And what will happen when young children mention that they have gay parents? Will they be told they don’t or simply be told to shut up?
Also contrary to proponents’ belief that discussions of sexuality should be completely under the control of parents, it is not possible, nor in the public interest, to attempt such a delusional policy. Children need to learn about how their bodies change during puberty, as well as how to protect themselves from STDs and avoid pregnancy. If such topics were left entirely to parents, many kids would miss out entirely, while others would get incomplete or inaccurate information. The fact remains that many parents are simply uncomfortable having such discussions. Some lack access to accurate and current information, while others, like the backers of this bill, hope to control their children’s personalities and behavior by keeping them ignorant of reality.