Silencing our schools: the story continues

Scheduled for debate before the Tennessee House Education Subcommittee on this past Tuesday, the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB0229) has been delayed again, as sponsor Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) needs more time to work on its language.

Despite last week’s encouragement from Gov. Bill Haslem to “drop the bill” and focus on more pressing issues, Rep. Hensley plans to see it through.

“We don’t want students to be exposed to alternative lifestyles,” he told the Tennessean. “If their parents want them to know about that, they can teach them at home.”

The anti-GLBT atmosphere has continued to build throughout state schools as, earlier this week, Principal Dorothy Bond of Haywood High School in Brownsville told gay students they were going to hell.

“At first, she was talking about [public displays of affection], and she turned around, and she directly pointed to the gay people and said, ‘If you're gay, you're going to hell, and if you're pregnant, you're life is over,’” student Amber Whittiemore said told ABC24.

“Students should never be made to feel like they are unwelcome at their own school, especially by school leadership,” Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement released by the ACLU of Tennessee today. “We expect school officials to clearly state that they do not condone this type of harassment and targeted discrimination, and to take action to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Forward progress is being made in Cheatham County, however, as residents have drafted three anti-bullying proposals in response to GLBT-student Jacob Rogers’ suicide last December. Two of the proposals acknowledge steps already taken by Cheatham County Schools, such as the revision of district’s anti-bullying policy and teacher training efforts. The proposals take those steps even further, however, by requesting monthly reports from the school board and public copies of the training curriculum. The third proposal suggests another revision to the anti-bullying policies to include the categories “gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation”.

Keep checking with Out & About Newspaper for further developments on these and other stories.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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