The Tennessee House passed a bill enacting stricter oversight on contraceptive information for school-aged children. As amended, the legislation would require that any contraceptive information is consistent with public policy, approved by the local board of education or charter school governing body, and available upon request to the parent.
The educational boards must verify that the contraceptive information is both medically accurate and age-appropriate, and that it aligns with present state law and academic standards. If parents find the material objectionable, they can opt their student out without any penalty.
The sponsors on the bill were State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) and State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).
Current Tennessee Code doesn’t include the requirements that any LEA review and approve material on contraceptives. It also doesn’t specify that parents can request access to the curriculum material, or opt their children out of receiving this information.
The House passed the legislation 70 to 22. Nearly all Democrats voted against it, with the exception of State Representative Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) and John Mark Windle (D-Livingston). State Representative Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) abstained her vote.
When the Senate passed the bill last week, every single Democratic senator voted against it.
In opposition to the bill, State Representative London Lamar (D-Memphis) said that 2019 data from the Tennessee Commission of Children estimated 20.5 percent STD rates among teens. She judged that this bill was inappropriate because it limited sexual education information.
In re-reading the bill, Ragan reiterated that it wasn’t taking away information from students, but refining the quality of information they could receive.
Ragan also clarified that the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission wouldn’t need to approve the contraceptive information.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval. This act would go into effect this summer.
– – –