Should Missouri public school teachers and students be allowed to discuss homosexual issues in schools? Some Missouri law makers say "no."
House Bill 2051, otherwise known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill would prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation in public school instruction, material, or extra-curricular activity.
The bill's sponsor is Rep. Steve Cookson from Fairdealing. He says the bill is meant to "protect the moral values that are most important to Missouri families." He says the bill will help schools focus on core education issues such as math, science, and reading and not on topics better left for discussion in the home at the discretion of parents.
"My intent on filing the bill is just
because I believe there are certain things in school, that are appropriate to
be taught as part of the curriculum, and I think there's other things that are
inappropriate, and need to be taught at home," Cookson told Heartland News
He said he wants schools to keep to core education issues.
The only exception is health classes. It's a topic that has parties on both sides sounding off.
"I thought it was the most ridiculous idea I'd ever heard," said James Francis.
Francis is the president of the Southeast Missouri State University Gay-Straight Alliance. He's well aware of the bill.
"I would just really like everyone to know this bill is going to be hurting a lot of individuals in the area," said Francis.
It's a one sentence bill that Francis feels is a step in the wrong direction in homosexuals fight for equal rights.
"I think it's the exact opposite because we want to see more talks and this would stop all that it would be going backwards," said Francis.
Cookson, the bill's sponsor, says the bill does not target a particular sexual orientation, but instead says instruction or materials related to any sexual orientation should not take place in public schools.
Francis feels lack of education leads to discrimination.
"Whenever I finally did come out a lot of people asked me why and say it's a choice but if it's a choice why would I choose to be bullied and harassed on a daily basis," said Francis.
However, we found some people who agree with lawmakers, including some parents who say it's a talk they'd like to have with their kids.
"I think when it comes to issues like that deal with sexuality it should stay in the home," said Chris Barinque of Cape Girardeau. "I don't see it as being the school's responsibility to take on something like that."
Christians also feel strongly about the bill.
"According to the Bible it teaches homosexuality is abomination," said Denea Woods.
If passed, 2051 would only allow for discussion when it comes to scientific instruction concerning human reproduction.
"What are we banning next?" said Southeast student Jesse Deleon. "African American education? Latino education?"
The president of the Missouri Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics (MoAAP), Dr. Stuart C. Sweet, released a statement about the bill on Wednesday saying:
"The Missouri Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics (MoAAP) is committed to the health and well being of all the children of Missouri," said Sweet. "We are distressed that HB 2051 has been introduced into the Missouri Legislature. This bill, which would prohibit any discussion of issues around sexual orientation in public schools, forbid teachers from addressing bullying based on sexual orientation, and likely ban gay-straight alliances, is clearly harmful to the best interests of the children of Missouri."
"All children and teenagers need to feel safe in their schools, and HB 2051 takes that assurance away from them. Rather, we would urge lawmakers to institute public policy that will help children feel safe in their schools and will ensure that their voice will always be heard."
Many people we spoke with feel homosexuals have the right to be upset.
"I think they would feel like they were being ostracized from the community," said Ashley Durr of Cape Girardeau. "Why shouldn't our kids be taught it's ok to be different."
Others feel government has gone too far.
"I say it's too prevalent not to teach it," said Holt Walker of Jackson. "I just wish the lawmakers would find a topic that's really important."
Cookson says the bill does not prohibit a student struggling with his or her sexual identity from talking to a school counselor.
The bill is not scheduled for a hearing in the near future. Session ends mid May. It's been assigned to the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee for further discussion.
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