The Tennessee Senate just days ago passed their alternative to the much lampooned “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would classify holding hands as a “gateway sexual activity” in their new “family life education curriculum.” The bill also includes specific provisions that allow parents to sue teachers if they deviate from the specified curriculum.
For the past few years Tennessee has been the subject of nationwide ire for its attempts to pass an infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that would have prohibited the mentioning of anything about homosexuality by teachers or students.
“In a new family life instructions bill, holding hands and kissing could be considered gateways to sex. Planned Parenthood said that allowing state government to define local sex education curriculum could backfire,” Tennessee’s WMC TV reports:
According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Study, 61 percent of Memphis City high school students and 27 percent of middle school students have had sex. That’s higher than the national average.
Planned Parenthood said these numbers are why a new sex education bill promoting abstinence is not realistic.
“If the state of Tennessee gets to create the curriculum, it has to create something that umbrella reflects everyone,” said Planned Parenthood Director of Education Elokin CaPese.
“It makes it very clear that you can’t promote contraception,” said CaPese.
The Huffington Post adds:
“‘Abstinence’ means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that,” Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, told The Tennessean. “What we do want to communicate to the kids is that the best choice is abstinence.”
The bill would require a “family life education curriculum” that prohibits the promotion of contraception and “any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity.”
Much like a bill that passed through the Utah state legislature last month, the Tennessee proposal notes that schools should “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience.” It also requires that students are taught the “physical, social, emotional, psychological, economic and educational consequences of non-marital sexual activity.”
Studies have found that comprehensive sex education more effectively delays sexual intercourse among youth and reduces teen pregnancy at a greater rate than abstinence-only education. Still, a 2010 study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that abstinence education can delay sex among teens.
Last month, Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill was placed on hold after lawmakers realized that the bill was not only unnecessary from their own standpoint, but counterproductive as well. In grades K -8, the bill would have made it illegal to discuss homosexuality in any manner at all, and allow only the discussion of heterosexual reproduction. Lawmakers put a hold on the bill upon learning — after more than two years of debate — that Tennessee does not have sex education classes in grades K – 8.
Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield, you’ll remember, made headlines internationally for his senate ”Don’t Say Gay” bill, SB-49, and for his public comments about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS, including saying it is “virtually impossible” to contract HIV/AIDS through heterosexual sex.
Image via Flickr.
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