On Friday, May 11, Governor Bill Haslam signed the new Tennessee sex education bill (SB 3310) into law. The bill was initiated in large part due to parental outrage over explicit sex education taught in Nashville schools. The new law sets a standard for other states to follow. It places a clear priority on sexual risk avoidance abstinence education. The law also puts provisions in place that will prohibit explicit sex education from being implemented in classrooms - a first for any state. It also empowers parents to protect their children from harmful sex education through their right to pursue legal options should a school ignore the protective provisions of the law.
The sex education bill received broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. Tennessee Legislator, Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) earned an enthusiastic standing ovation for his straight talking defense of the bill which encourages youth to choose healthy behaviors. Watch his speech in the Tennessee Legislature here.
Until now, some curricula and organizations were permitted into Tennessee schools, even though the instruction normalized teen sexual activity and promoted “gateway sexual activity”- now prohibited in Tennessee’s Family Life Education classes. The term, “gateway sexual activity” is clearly defined in Tennessee State code and refers to “sexual contact.” The code defines it as “intentional touching of another person’s genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast, if that intentional touching can be reasonably construed as being for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.” Unfortunately, some sex education curricula, widely used in communities across the country, promote such behaviors as an alternative to intercourse. The new Tennessee law will prohibit their use in Tennessee schools. Not surprisingly, organizations that explicitly or tacitly endorse such practices, now prohibited by the new law, are not happy.
NAEA applauds the Tennessee legislature and Governor for taking this bold step in the best interests of Tennessee's youth despite significant distortions by anti-abstinence groups to mischaracterize the law.
Valerie Huber, Executive Director of NAEA states: “We hope other states follow the lead of Tennessee and implement similar laws that clarify the need for best health approaches for our teens. This law uniquely gives parents leverage to protect their children, and will also help schools carefully select appropriate curriculum for sex education classes that encourage teens to avoid sexual risk. The law is clear and it goes far to assure that teens will not receive medically inaccurate and harmful information that puts them at increased risk in their sex education classes.”
The bill, with amendments can be viewed by clicking here.
New Tennessee Law Becomes "Gateway" For Protecting Youth from Explicit Sex Education Instruction