Being on the LGBT spectrum can be difficult enough; in Tennessee, certain bills headed to the Legislature stand to make things even harder.
Students in K-12 schools, public or private, have few rights as it is, with even some constitutional rights effectively suspended during the school day. Now one of the bills coming up for debate threatens students’ right to privacy further with a proposal to require that parents be notified if their child has talked to a counselor for certain issues, including sexual orientation.
Proponents say that parents have a right to know what their children are up to, while opponents counter that minors, too, have a right to confidentiality.
The bill comes in the wake of the revival of the so-called “don’t say gay” bill, originally proposed and shot down in 2011, which would forbid teachers and counselors of students in kindergarten through eighth grade from teaching or speaking of LGBT issues, yet also require that school staff out students that they merely suspect of being gay to their parents.
“The denial or refusal to acknowledge LGBTQ issues in schools is a disservice to the safety and prosperity of… LGBTQ students,” said spokesperson for the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Martavius Hampton, in an interview with 429Magazine. “This bill, it fosters the ‘invisible’ LGBTQ students and issues that are ‘visible’ in Tennessee schools. The head in the sand technique is merely a fallacy with real life consequences.”
Another bill aims to make discrimination easier. It would allow any counselor in training, of any religion, to refuse to treat any client they don’t agree with. The bill would not apply to fully trained counselors, but it would allow them to become technically qualified for the job despite having served potentially only a very limited range of clients.
Opponents of the bill argue that such self-limitation would result in graduating counselors that are unsuited for working in hospitals or government-run facilities, such as schools, further damaging those already at risk.