"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In a Tizzy in Tennessee

The California Senate recently approved a bill that would require schools to teach LGBT history. That's a big win in most books, but not if you're Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield. Since the California Senate passed this pro-gay bill, it's only a matter of time before the fine state of Tennessee follow suit - sort of like how there are certain Middle Eastern countries that follow Sharia Law, which logically means it's only a matter of time before Sharia Law comes to the United States (obvious sarcasm pointing out the absurdity of Rep. Campfield's actions).

Actually, Tennessee already blazed some trails by being the first state to effectively ban Sharia Law in 2010.

Well, Rep. Campfield is carrying that torch and standing up against even the threat future pro-gay legislation (or any teachers currently teaching about homosexuality). Below is the video of discussion of the bill:

Rep. Campfield makes it pretty darn obvious that this is about prohibiting the teaching of homosexuality - you can skip to the 1:30 mark to see his line of questioning that makes this abundantly clear.

But here's where this starts to get even wackier: the legal counsel of the TN Organization of School Superintendents, Chuck Cagel, testifies just after the 1:32:00 mark. He cites the case of Garcetti vs. Ceballos and explained that teachers do not have first amendment rights when it comes to curriculum issues. On top of that, TN state law already puts limits on what can be taught through curriculum adoptions, and both the state board of education and local boards have to approve of that curriculum. From counsel Cagel:
"The theory that a teacher can just walk in and address any subject that they wish is not supported either in federal law or in our state law. In fact, our state law says that if you wander off that curriculum and address the subjects Senator Campfield makes reference here today, then you are subject criminal prosecution. And you are also subject to dismissal as a teacher in a local school system. So I don't know what bigger hammers we can have in the code..."
So there's nothing about homosexuality in the curriculum; TN teachers cannot wander from that homosexual-free curriculum; and, if they do wander from that homosexual-free curriculum, teachers (even tenured teachers) can lose their job. When asked by Rep Campfield about any specific bans on teaching homosexuality, Cagel makes it clear that teachers cannot teach about homosexuality given the current law. But keep in mind this bill would also potentially cause problems for school employees looking to curb anti-gay bullying and students looking to form LGBT clubs (see the ACLU link below).

The TN branch of the ACLU wrote about the bill here. Current TN standards for K-8 health education are available here. You can read the actual bill and an amendment here.

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