KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – After a member of the Kingsport City Schools board proposed a new policy that bars district employees from actions that “create, facilitate or engage in classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity,” a local LGBTQ+ group spoke out against the measure.
John Baker, president of Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities, said his organization has served a large LGBTQ community in the region since 2012. When speaking with News Channel 11, he said the policy could tie the hands of educators who are more than qualified to speak on the topic.
“That stymies them from being able to offer our young people the education that they need on many different levels,” Baker said. “From what I’ve heard from the people that have talked to me, [educators] feel that they are being strangled by not being able to give people the information that they really need.”
The policy was put forward by member Todd Golden as an amendment to Policy 4.401, or “Reconsideration of Textbooks and Instructional Materials, ” which was on Tuesday’s agenda for a second reading. The original policy mirrored guidelines from the Tennessee School Board Association, according to board president Melissa Woods. You can find Golden’s addition in bold below:
All curriculum and instructional programming implemented in the school district shall adhere to state and federal laws. District employees shall not include or promote any concepts that would violate state law when providing instruction, using instructional or supplemental materials, or when implementing the instructional program curriculum and shall not create, facilitate or engage in classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.New KCS Policy proposed by Todd Golden
Golden’s request for the change was tabled and is slated for further discussion during August 23’s board work session. In the meantime, Woods said school officials are consulting with City Attorney Bart Rowlett on the matter and compiling relevant information.
While Golden’s addition is not a part of the potential policy without further action, Baker said he’s concerned that teachers will have few options if it is added.
“Our teachers are smart. They are teachers,” Baker said. “They’re educated, and they are prepared and understand how to be able to answer the questions the best that they can, as far as the level that the child can understand.
“I don’t believe that someone that is sitting on a board somewhere really should be dictating to the teacher who is in the classroom every day.”
News Channel 11 reached out to Todd Golden for comment on the addition but has not received a response.