By Hilary White

  NASHVILLE, February 21, 2008 ( – A bill meant to stop discussion of homosexuality in elementary and middle school classrooms in Tennessee has failed, but its sponsor insists it is necessary. State Representative Stacey Campfield, a Republican of Knoxville Tennessee, said that efforts around the country to bring such instruction into schools now require attention in Tennessee.

The House Education K-12 Subcommittee voted to allow the state Board of Education to examine the bill, a move that Campfield said effectively killed it.

  After the bill was defeated, Campfield continued to insist it is a necessary measure. Schools, he said, should not be “pushing a position one way or the other” on sexuality. “A lot of places are starting to push these topics on to children and talk about these lifestyles and advocate a position one way or the other on these lifestyles,” he said.

  Campfield stood in support of the right of parents, not schools, to be in charge of what children learn about sexuality. “We’re saying we’re going to leave it alone. We’re going to let the families decide when it’s appropriate and when to talk about it and how to talk about it,” he said. “It’s not the position of our schools to be advocating a lifestyle.”

  The bill said the issue of human sexuality is “enormously complex” and said “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”

  Legislators argued that the bill was unnecessary since homosexuality is not an official part of the curriculum in the state. Bruce Opie, legislative liaison for the Department of Education, claimed that no instruction provided in Tennessee middle schools or elementary schools on homosexuality, though he admitted it is possible the topic could come up in classroom discussion.

  But Campfield said he put the bill forward in response to two complaints from parents that the subject was being included in some schools.

“A lot of people have very strong (religious) beliefs,” Rep. Campfield said, noting he was concerned schools might promote “acceptance” of homosexuality rather than “tolerance.”

  But Opie told the committee that “as far as sexuality is concerned, most of the information that is provided is at middle-school grades and high school, and it is in the context of abstinence.”