What is HB 800? Tennessee GOP bill wants to ban textbooks, teaching materials that ‘promote’ LGBTQ content

What is HB 800? Tennessee GOP bill wants to ban textbooks, teaching materials that ‘promote’ LGBTQ content
(Getty Images)

A bill proposed by the Republican state lawmakers of Tennessee would put a ban on textbooks and teaching materials that include LGBT content. The bill -- HB 800 -- was introduced by state Representative Bruce Griffey in February and is set to be taken up by Tennessee’s Education Instruction Subcommittee next Tuesday, March 30, according to a KENS5 report. If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1 and be applicable to the 2021-22 school year, the report added. 

The bill says that public schools should focus on teaching subjects like reading, science and mathematics and that LGBTQ+ content is not fit for the classroom and could irk school communities that harbor Christian values. According to the legislation, the LGBTQ+ issues should be seen with the same restrictions as religious teachings are in public schools.



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What does HB 800 entail?

The summary of the bill says: “LEAs (local education agencies) and public charter schools are prohibited from locally adopting or using in the public schools of this state, textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.” It also says that it is unknown that some textbook material that is currently in use runs contrary to the proposed legislation. 


Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee (Getty Images)


It was only last month that Tennessee’s GOP Governor Bill Lee said that transgender girls should not be included in middle and high school sports teams saying they will “destroy women's sports”. Lee said this while slamming President Joe Biden for signing an executive order that safeguards transgender athletes in school sports. His statement reflected a proposal by the Volunteer State’s GOP lawmakers that would bar transgender students from taking part in school sports.

This is not the first time that Tennessee GOP members have targeted the issue of allowing transgender girls in school sports. In early 2020, they advanced a legislation that would penalize Tennessee’s schools for including transgender girls in athletic events and teams. The bill -- HB 1572 -- was removed from the Tennessee State Legislature’s Education Committee’s calendar in June.

The Tennessee Business Against Discrimination objected to the legislation and wrote a letter to the state’s lawmakers against bills that allegedly discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans, NBC15 reported. It may be mentioned here that in February last year, 35 corporations and 107 small businesses opposed the signing of HB 836, a bill that would enable child welfare agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ families in adoption proceedings on the basis of “religious or moral convictions or policies”.


Tennessee lawmakers brought a bill on single-sex bathroom-using rights

Also, Tennessee lawmakers recently introduced a bill that aims to preserve students’ right to use single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms. “Introduced by state Rep Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and state Sen Mike Bell (R-Riceville),  HB1233/SB1367 would allow students to obtain a ‘reasonable accommodation’ from their school to avoid sharing restrooms with transgender students,” Breitbart News reported on March 10.

Zachary said the bill surfaced following the school administrations’ frustration over dealing with bathroom access as per gender identities. “There is a high school that has reached out to me, they are having to (deal with) a problem with boys using the girls’ restroom,” he said.

“And they feel like they are handcuffed, and there’s not much they can do about it. This bill takes care of that. It stops all that and just provides absolute clarity,” he added.

On Friday, March 26, Governor Lee signed a law that bans transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports, making Tennessee the third state this year to approve a measure that many critics would hurt transgender youth.


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