Legislation is moving quickly through the Tennessee General Assembly that would limit the kinds of flags public schools can display.

Among the flags permitted by House Bill 1605 are the United States and Tennessee state flags; the POW/MIA flag; flags that represent Indian tribes; city, county, and metropolitan flags; official school flags; and flags that represent any unit, branch, or other division of the armed forces.

H.B. 1605, which passed the House on a vote of 70-24, allows students and parents to bring civil actions against schools that violate the measure.

LGBT activists and their allies were upset that their wide variety of flags – representing the wildly-expanding, newly invented varieties of sexualities and genders – would no longer be allowed in public schools. News outlets framed the issue as “banning pride flags, with headlines that exclaimed, “Pride flags would be largely banned in Tennessee classrooms” and “Tennessee House passes bill along party lines to ban pride flags in public schools.”

But the legislation blocks all flags that give politicized messages – not just LGBT flags. The bill simply acknowledges that teachers and schools should not be indoctrinating children with radical or sexualized ideologies.

According to The Tennessean, Representative Aftyn Behn argued against the legislation, saying:

Merely displaying a flag doesn’t inherently constitute indoctrination. The pride flag is a powerful symbol that communicates acceptance and support of our LGBTQIA community by providing social representation.

State Representative Gino Bulso, who introduced H.B. 1605, argued that parents are able “to instill values in their children” – such as embracing LGBT ideology – but that was not the role of educators. He said:

Everyone is entitled to mutual respect. Everyone is entitled to mutual dignity. Everyone is entitled to tolerance. What this bill does is it preserves tolerance across the board for all parents and all school children.

As the Tennessean reported, Bulso “brought the legislation on behalf of parents in his district who are concerned about display of the pride flags in Williamson County Schools classrooms.”

Representative Jason Powell argued that the bill needed clarification to avoid “frivolous lawsuits” from parents or students.

“The Senate’s version of the bill [Senate Bill 1722] would be more restrictive about who could file a lawsuit over a flag, limiting it to students, parents or guardians of students or employees at that specific school,” reported Fox News.

S.B. 1722 passed the Senate Education Committee with a vote of 5-4 and now goes to the full Senate. If it passes, the two versions will go through a reconciliation process.

 Related articles and resources:

 To help parents navigate their children’s schools, Focus on the Family has created a free resource, Back to School for Parents: A busy parent’s guide to what’s happening in your children’s classrooms and practical steps you can take to protect themThe resource helps you stay informed with happenings in your child’s school and gives guidance for responding.

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