Senator Campfield says, “the new version is completely different, and gets rid of some of the old perceptions” about the “don’t say gay” legislation.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, has introduced a new bill, SB234, or the “Classroom Protection Act” which would allow schools to counsel students on homosexuality, but would also require that the parents be notified that the counseling had occurred. This is actually just a new version of legislation that in the past was branded the “don’t say gay” bill. Critics of the older legislation, which was approved by the Tennessee Senate in 2011, but later died in the House and never became law, argue that teachers could be “prohibited” from answering questions or counseling students if their questions or concerns have anything to do with homosexuality.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the new bill would basically prohibit, “classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction,” in grades kindergarten through eighth. It also absolutely forbids a teacher from answering any questions “related to the subject being taught” based on what they believe to be true and only allows for them to answer in the manner outlined by the law. The bill would allow school nurses and counselors, principals, and assistant principals to counsel students. However, the bill goes on to say that the “parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.”
While it is important for parents to be informed if there is a danger to their children’s health or safety, requiring the school to notify parents when their child has sought out counseling could potentially cause more harm than good by discouraging students from reaching out for help when dealing with such issues as dating or sexual abuse, bullying, homosexuality, or suicidal thoughts. . And barring the teachers, who have more direct contact on a daily basis and build individual relationships with students, from answering important questions and counseling when necessary cuts out an important avenue for troubled teens who may feel like there is no one else to turn to.
Campfield has responded to these criticisms by saying, “it’s ridiculous to say we should shield parents from that information,” concerning a students potential homosexual activity, which, according to the senator, poses a danger due to AIDS and STDs. He said, “I think it’s important that, if they’re doing something that’s potentially dangerous or life-threatening, that you should get parents involved.” But if that is the case, then any sexual activity at all, whether hetero- or homosexual should be reported to parents, because AIDS and STDs are not only a concern for gay students but for any students who are sexually active.
Unfortunately, statements such as this come as no surprise from Senator Campfield. In fact, these are significantly mild compared to some of the other things he has said publicly about homosexuality and AIDS. Last year, in defense of the original “don’t say gay” bill, Newser quoted Campfield as saying,
- On “Don’t Say Gay”: “If someone, a person of influence, says maybe you’re gay, maybe you should explore those things—maybe the child, who is young and impressionable, says maybe I am gay.”
- On AIDS: “Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community—it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”
- On heterosexual sex: “My understanding is that it is virtually—not completely, but virtually—impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex … very rarely [transmitted].”
- On gay men: “What’s the average lifespan of a homosexual? it’s very short. Google it yourself.”
While one can only hope this new version of the old bill isn’t passed into law in Tennessee, the fact that there are people who actually believe as Senator Campfield does in positions of power is discouraging.