I don't have anything against Senator Campfield, the current state senator and former state representative for my district. I don't agree with his positions or his ideas on LGBT issues, though, which is why I felt the need to email him recently about SB49, the "Don't Say Gay" bill that comes up for a vote on May 5. Senator Campfield tried to pass this bill a number of times as a representative, and now that he's a senator he's trying to pass it again. As a constituent who disagrees with the idea behind the bill, I decided to express my thoughts.
Our email exchange is below. I haven't added or removed anything.
Given that you are sponsoring this bill, I can already guess at how you intend to vote on it, but as a constituent living in your district I did want to say that I disagree.
You've offered no solid, documented examples of homosexuality being taught at any time in any school, anywhere in the state. Additionally, no school district has stated that they intend to add that content to their elementary and middle school lesson plans, so there seems to be no need for this bill.
The (hopefully) unintended consequences of it, on the other hand, could prove very damaging. Children of same gender parents would be unable to discuss their families in school, sending a message to them that their family is somehow shameful. In a time when LGBT teen suicides are receiving national attention, with some of the victims as young as 11 years old (Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in April 2009), your bill would prevent students struggling with those issues from seeking counseling or resources at school. If they are also not receiving support at home, where are they supposed to turn?
When you were running for your current office, I received a large volume of campaign mail which described you as a fan of small government and a person who would focus on job creation. This bill doesn't seem to have anything to do with either of those concepts.
Please take the time to consider the damage that you are about to inflict on children who are already struggling with their identities and self worth, and withdraw your sponsorship from this bill.
While I appreciate your passion, I still feel it is a parents responsibility to decide when a child is ready to grasp such a complex issue as sexuality and what they want to tell the child about that complex subject.
All children develop mentally at different rates. I do not feel a teacher with an agenda (Be it pro or con) is the appropriate person to decide "Now is the time" for an entire class just because they may think one way or another on an issue and want to espouse it. I doubt you would want a teacher who said "Homosexuality is evil, dirty and wrong" just because they felt it was appropriate and that is what they thought the children needed and were ready to hear.
We are falling behind the rest of the world in math, science, and English amongst other things. This will be just one less issue teachers have to worry about teaching as part of their curricula.
Yours in service, Sen. Stacey Campfield
I appreciate your taking the time to respond, but your response still leaves me with questions.
If the responsibility of helping children to grasp issues of sexuality lies with the parents, then why doesn't your bill prevent the teaching of any kind of sexuality? Shouldn't any mention of heterosexuality also be restricted in the classroom, then?
And if you're worried about the math, science, and English curricula, (which, based on national testing statistics, I agree that Tennessee should be worried about), then why doesn't your bill focus on better techniques and strategies for teaching math, science, and English? It's not as if any school district anywhere in the state is neglecting to teach those in favor of a curriculum about homosexuality instead. By putting the focus on homosexuality, you're actually clouding the issue, and giving people the idea that it's your main concern, rather than math, science, and English. Why not put the focus where it should be?
While there is a scientific need to mention the basics of heterosexuality when teaching the basics of reproduction (XY chromosomes, etc.) there is no scientific need to mention homosexuality as homosexuals do not naturally reproduce.
Neither do infertile heterosexual couples, but you don't currently sponsor any bills banning the teaching of subject matter dealing with adoption or in-vitro fertilization. Besides, if you're making scientific evidence the basis of what is and is not included in the science curriculum, then you're asking schools to overlook the fact that homosexual behavior has been documented in over 500 species. How is the science curriculum improved by censoring scientific evidence?
It is not clear as to its scientific significance.
That's true, but isn't part of the purpose of schooling to teach students critical thinking skills that will enable them to help determine whether it's scientifically significant? By curtailing discussion, your bill prevents them from reaching a conclusion. Is that the way we should treat all unknowns in science? If so, you'll need to write several dozen more bills.
Regardless, you still haven't addressed my original point about unintended consequences of your bill. Will it prevent students from seeking counseling and teachers from making referrals to appropriate resources dealing with LGBT topics? And if so, do you intend to add any amendments before the bill comes up for a vote to insure that the ability of teachers and guidance counselors to help students struggling with LGBT issues is not impeded?
I sent that last one a few hours ago, and so far he hasn't written back. Given that he spent the entirety of the exchange ignoring most of my points, I don't really expect him to, but if he does I'll update this. For now I'm going to get moving on the rest of my day, and hope that people in the rest of the state are contacting senators for their districts, who might actually listen.
Edited to add: Senator Campfield replied to my last message today.
After minds are developed enough for it yes.
I don't even know how to respond to that. I asked four questions in my last email to him, and got only that one sentence in response. I'm not even sure which question that answers.