TEP claims small victory on bill that could affect Gay-Straight Alliances

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A bill that was making its way through the Tennessee Senate that would have required students participating in school-sponsored clubs seek written permission from their parents has been taken “off notice” and moved to a Senate Subcommittee. 

Senate Bill 2079 – filed by Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) – was opposed by the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the Tennessee Chapter of the ACLU and the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). 

“By taking it off notice the bill is no longer a live piece of legislation in the Senate,” explained TEP President Christopher Sanders. “It has been moved to the General Subcommittee of the State Education Committee at the request of Sen. Crowe. This bill would be counter-productive to an open learning environment. Why do parents need to sign a slip giving their child permission to participate in a school-sponsored club?” 

Sanders added that for the bill to come back to be considered, advance notice would have to be given.

“For now it is an early victory,” he said. “But we will continue to monitor the legislation. Sen. Crowe was under a great deal of pressure after introducing the bill.”

TEP’s concern with the bill was that it could have the effect of attempting to inhibit Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) from public schools.  

“GSAs provide a safe space for gays, lesbians, transgender, bisexual students and their straight friends, while promoting self-respect and tolerance, and stand against GLBT bullying and harassment,” Sanders said. “One notable battle against GSAs was in Tampa, Florida and proved to be a yearlong fight, when schools attempted to mandate parental permission for GSA membership. The action was struck down, because legally the requirement could not be for just one club. The result of requiring membership permission for all clubs would create a tremendous amount of paperwork, taking school employees further away from educational programs. The county school board rejected the proposal following testimony by local GSA members, Equality Florida and the ACLU.”