Tennessee’s Proposed Ban on Pride Flags in Schools Sparks Heated Discussions!


CybersecdnAfter cutting short a heated argument, the GOP-led Tennessee House passed a bill on Monday that would make it illegal to fly most types of flags in public school classrooms.

With a vote of 70–24, the bill is sent to the Senate, where it could be voted on again as soon as this week. When the motion to end the debate was made, Nashville Democratic Rep. Justin Jones yelled that House Speaker Cameron Sexton was not following the rules and was not letting people talk. The Republicans then scolded Jones by voting him “out of order,” which stopped him from speaking right away.

Before that, at least two people who were against the bill were kicked out of the balcony for talking too loudly during the proceedings. Democrats and other opponents of the bill criticized it as unfairly limiting a major symbol of the LGBTQ+ community in schools.

A Nashville Democrat named Rep. Jason Powell said, “I am proud to walk into the public schools in my city and see the LGBTQ flag proudly flown by teachers who know the pain that many of their students are going through.” “Instead of hating on our students, we should welcome and celebrate them.” A school or employee “displaying” a flag means to “exhibit or place anywhere students may see the object.”

With some exceptions for certain situations, the plan would let certain flags be shown. It would be okay for the flags of the United States, Tennessee, Native American tribes, local governments’ armed forces and prisoners of war or missing in action, other countries and their local governments, colleges and universities, or even the schools themselves.

Other flags could be briefly flown as part of a “bona fide” course. The bill also says that groups that are allowed to use school buildings can fly their flags while they are on the grounds.

Tennessee's Proposed Ban on Pride Flags in Schools Sparks Heated Discussions

The law sets up a way to enforce it through lawsuits filed by parents or guardians of students who go to or are qualified to go to a public school in the district in question. People could sue if a school, an employee, or someone working for the school showed flags that didn’t follow the suggested rules for what could be allowed in classrooms.

The bill’s author, Republican Rep. Gino Bulso from Williamson County, which is south of Nashville, said parents had complained to him about “political flags” in the classroom. After being asked if the bill would let the Confederate flag fly in schools, Bulso said that it would not change the rule about when that kind of symbol could be shown.

He said that the bill’s exceptions could be used for Confederate flags that are part of a school’s approved curriculum and for some historical items that can’t be taken down without a lot of state permission. Bulso said, “What we’re doing is making sure that parents are the ones who can teach their kids the values they want to teach them.”

The proposal is another move in Tennessee’s ongoing political battle over LGBTQ+ rights. The state’s conservative leaders have already taken steps to limit gender and sexuality discussions in schools, ban gender-affirming care, and limit the number of events where certain drag performers can perform. If the Senate’s version of the bill passes, only students, parents, or guardians of those students or workers at that school would be able to sue over a flag.

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The ACLU sent a letter earlier this month to town, school, and school district officials who have banned flags or other shows of pride or are thinking about doing so. Legal precedent from the First Amendment says that “public schools may prohibit private on-campus speech only insofar as it substantially interferes with or disrupts the educational environment or violates the rights of other students.” This is what the group said. Bulso said that school workers’ flying the pride flag does not count as protected free speech.

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