by Jeff Woods
Whereas the old bill—itself a new version of last year's—contained an outrageous tattletale provision requiring schools to out gay children to their parents, this latest rewrite bars school personnel from counseling kids on "mental health issues or lifestyle choices" at all—that is, unless these employees are clinical psychologists or psychiatrists.
There's more: If kids need counseling on anything other than educational or career issues, school employees must refer those students to a medical professional. Since all referrals are reported to parents under existing policy, any child who makes the mistake of confiding in a school counselor is rewarded with an automatic outing. The tattletale mandate lives on!
"The whole slant of the bill is unrealistic and harmful," the Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders says. "Students come to school personnel all the time with problems and they need relationships of trust with these adults. Often there is not time to make a referral. What about emergencies such as suicide and issues of bullying? And who pays for the referral? What if the child's family can't afford it?"
There's also a lot in the new bill about school personnel identifying and reporting a student "who is engaging in or who may be at risk of engaging in behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well being of the student or another person." As Campfield has said, "The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone's health and safety."
"In other words," Sanders says, "the students lose almost all avenues for a trusting relationship with the adults with whom they spend so many hours at school. Where will they turn for safe, confidential relationships of trust to explore their problems at school?"