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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
As public schools across the state get ready to welcome back students after their summer break, a new parental rights law essentially goes into effect with the beginning of the fall semester.
Public Chapter 353 was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee on May 5th, with an effective date of July 1st, 2023.
During the legislative session earlier this year, House Bill 0727 sponsor Representative Monty Fritts (R-Kingston-District 32), who was handed the baton from Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport-District 2), spoke for the rights of Tennessee parents to be fully informed about the activities their children take part in on school campuses.
The new law amends T.C.A. Section 49-2-211 by requiring Tennessee schools to obtain parental consent before allowing students to participate in surveys, join student clubs or be present for courses that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity.
Parents and legal guardians must be allowed to review “all surveys, analyses, or evaluations, prior to being administered” and the school district must “obtain the written, informed, and voluntarily signed consent” of parents.
Last year, Sumner County, TN, middle school students were given a school climate survey that asked children about their use of illegal drugs, alcohol and if they smoked or vaped, among other things.
Speaking with Representative Fritts yesterday, one of the reasons he sponsored his own bill during this year’s legislative session (later withdrawn in favor of HB0727) was after being made aware of how many of the state’s schools dealt with consent during the registration process. Parents typically had to opt out of anything they found objectionable for their student as the default was to opt students in, and unless parents went out of their way to opt out, consent was implied.
In the case of all student-led groups including GLSEN clubs or other Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, parents must now give written consent before students can participate. As we reported last year, such groups are popping up even in middle schools across the state.
In addition, the new law states that written parental consent is required before any student receives any kind of sexual orientation or gender identity instruction, and that the student must not be penalized for not participating in classes that address these topics.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.