SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee State Rep. Bud Hulsey (R- Kingsport) attended a Sullivan County Commission meeting on Thursday night in support of a bill that would not require teachers to use pronouns other than those assigned to a student’s biological sex.
“Basically what it does is it protects teachers from being required to use the preferred pronouns that is seeming to infiltrate our young people right now,” said commissioner Jessica Crowder Means (District-6). “This is just a resolution to protect our teachers from any civil liability or consequential adverse employment actions.”
Hulsey was called up to answer questions from commissioners, who asked about previous attempts to pass similar measures at the state level.
“Most of the time, state legislators and senators listen to their constituents, but when a county commission speaks, it carries more weight because you represent everybody in this county,” Hulsey said.
Hulsey said that local educators have voiced to him that they fear losing their job or having to quit over having to use a student’s preferred pronouns.
“My computer has lit up with teachers who either call me or email me, worried,” Hulsey said. “I had one just not too long ago in a city school here in Kingsport saying, ‘I’m either going to get fired, or I’m gonna have to quit.’ They’re really worried about this.”
Commissioner Zane Vanover (District-6) expressed support for the resolution after asking Hulsey if he thought passing local resolutions would make an impact in Nashville.
“I’m a former teacher, and I think this is one thing that would help our schools in our state immensely,” Vanover said. “It’s not acceptable for the students to be telling the teachers what they should be called.”
When asked by Commissioner Samuel Jones (District-7) if other neighboring counties had considered similar resolutions, Hulsey said he believed Sullivan County would be the first and would begin a trend.
“And what I’m hoping is other county commissions will follow suit. Otherwise, we’re in jeopardy of putting teachers in jeopardy.”
Hulsey said he had spoken with teachers only about the measure, but he has not taken the issue to school boards as of Thursday.
The resolution passed its first reading at the commission meeting, with all 22 commissioners present voting yes. A similar state bill last year made it through the Tennessee State House but not the Senate.
Hulsey indicated that state lawmakers plan to try to pass the law again in the upcoming General Assembly and said he would use the Sullivan County resolution as backing.
“I have no doubt at all it will pass in the House, like it did last year,” Hulsey said. “I don’t know about the Senate. I’m hoping these kind of actions will show the Senate this is necessary.”