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Tennessee Senate Approves Opt-Out For LGBT Instruction

Chas Sisk

The state Senate has approved a measure that would let guardians opt their children out of lessons on the LGBT community.

The bill requires teachers to give the families of students at least 30 days’ notice before offering any instruction in a curriculum on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It is up to parents to decide what should or shouldn’t be in their family and taught,” says state Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon. “It is not up to government to — it’s not our role — to dictate how and what a parent would say is appropriate for their children or not for their children.”

The measure, SB 1229/HB 529, passed on straight party lines. Democrats say it will stigmatize LGBT students and make teaching subjects like literature and history more difficult.

“Quite frankly, instead of trying to shield students from this, they need to be prepared for the world that they exist in,” says Memphis Sen. Raumesh Akbari. “Also, it puts people — children — who identify as LGBTIQ, it makes them appear like something that can be opted out of. And I think that is truly unfair to those children.”

The measure one of several anti-LGBT bills being debated this year by Tennessee lawmakers. Other measures ban transgender girls from taking part in interscholastic sports and make it harder for transgender teens to receive gender confirmation treatments.

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons
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