Proposed Tennessee bill will require educators to out transgender students

By Bee Goodman Managing Editor

Tennessee legislators are pushing for a bill requiring public school teachers to out transgender students to their parents. GOP lawmakers passed the bill through the House on April 15. 

The bill would join Tennessee with Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, and North Carolina; states having similar policy laws. Virginia also has such requirements in regards to school boards. The Tennessee bill will head back for another vote at the Senate after a version of the bill had previously passed before heading to Gov. Bill Lee.

Republican lawmakers push to make Tennessee one of the most eager states to push policies aimed at persons of the LGBTQ+ community. Lawmakers are also pushing policies to include criminalizing adults who seek to aid minors in getting gender-affirming care. Tennessee has banned said care for most minors, attempting to limit events that include grad performances and policies that were adopted after Tech President Phil Oldham addressed a student group which hosted a drag event as “disturbing” in a public post on social media. 

“These are the most vulnerable kids in our state who are just trying to make it out of middle school alive…And we are weaponizing their identities instead of actually passing bills that help,” said Democratic Rep. Aftyn Behn. 

The bill’s sponsor and Republican representative Mary Littleton argued on the floor that parents need to know if their students need therapeutic care. Littleton disclosed that prior to introducing the bill, she did not contact any transgender students. Littleton did note that she had discussed the topic with some teachers who shared that they did not want the responsibility.

The bill explains that if a student discloses to a teacher that they request affirmation of a different name or gender identity, the teacher would be required to share the information with the administration, who would then relay the information to parents. 

The bill would also allow parents or the state’s attorney general to sue if they felt the school district did not follow the above-stated law. 

Most public schools have already approved legal protections against teachers who do not use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun, restricted transgender athletes, limited use of bathrooms to transgender students that align with their gender identity. They also have allowed parents to opt students out of classroom conversations about sexuality and gender. Tennessee currently ranks #33 in quality of public education in the country. 

Freshman education major Sarah Calwell says, “I think it’s stupid. If a kid’s parents are homophobic this could cause them to be abused at home. A teacher has to choose whether to allow students to be honest with them or keep them safe, why?”

“I can understand why parents might need to know if their child is trans but I don’t believe that the state is doing this for the right reasons…I went to school with someone who was kicked out for being gay. That kind of thing is just going to keep happening if this is passed,” said secondary education major Chloe Jackson.

Rep. Justin Pearson argued that the state does not have the better interest of the students. “This legislation isn’t concerned, in a very meaningful way, about the children. In fact, with each answer, you told me about the parents not being discriminated against, but we have to be worried about the children and prioritizing the children in our care who are LGBTQI,” Pearson stated when arguing against the recently passed Tennessee Foster and Adoptive Parent Protection Act. The act will allow children who identify as LGBTQ+ to be placed in homes with foster families who are anti-LGBTQ+. 

Calwell shares, “ I want to be a positive influence in kids’ lives, this would only hurt them.”

The bill currently sits in the hands of the senate and will pass on to Gov. Lee’s desk for a final vote if it passes.