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House approves bill allowing opt-out of LGBTQ curriculum

Senate Bill 1229 will next head to Governor Bill Lee's desk.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A controversial bill that critics said will lead to discrimination at schools is now headed to Governor Bill Lee's desk for his signature.

The legislation would require districts to give a notice to parents and let students opt-out on learning curriculum related to sexual orientation.  

“It really appears to be stigmatizing sexual gender minority youth by saying this is something we can’t talk about in school or you need a whole month advanced notice,” said Rhodes professor Dr. Joshua Goodman. 

Goodman is an assistant professor of Psychology. His research focuses on family support for sexual and gender minority youth.  

He believes the  house bill that would require school districts to alert parents a month in advance on LGBTQ material is detrimental.

“This amounts to censorship of the lived experiences of sexual and gender minority individuals," said Goodman. "Certainly, this comes up in literature, it comes up in current events and in any number of other ways in classrooms.” 

Dr. Goodman worries that the vast majority of LGTBQ youth are already experiencing harassment or assault in schools and that the bill won't help.  

“Rather than maybe making it easier for students to learn about LGTBQ people and supportive environments, it makes it a lot harder," said Goodman. "My biggest worry is that this will increase harassment.” 

Experts said the bill could apply to history lessons on the Supreme Court and to discussions in literature that involve topics of sexuality.  

Supporters argue it would strengthen parental rights.  

“I wouldn’t dare want my elementary children to be learning about that at such a young age," said mother Natoria Carpenter. "I just wouldn’t.”  

Carpenter has a 9-year-old and two 14-year-olds in Shelby County Schools.  

“I would opt out automatically for all my kids because I don’t knock anybody for what they do or what their sexual preference is but I don’t want you teaching that to my kids,” she said.

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