No joke. Former Republican Senator David Fowler is pushing the Tennessee legislature to take up a new bill he’s proposed that would create a loophole in the current anti-bullying policies in the state that would — rather than protect students from being bullied — protect students’ right to bully. TPM reports:
The proposed bill would amend the state’s current anti-bullying laws to specify that the anti-bully policy should “not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and shall not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views” as long as there’s no physical threat or threat to another student’s property.
And specifically, as stated in a newsletter from Fowler’s organization, the Family Action Council of Tennessee, the legislation would “make sure [the law] protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.” So remember all the anti-LGBTQ bullying across the country that is playing a role in so many kids ending their lives? This dude wants to make it legally okay to do so.
The central tenants of this proposed legislation is actually already being implemented as “neutrality policies” in anti-bullying legislation across the country, the most recent being a Minnesota school district that directs school authorities to “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.” In the meantime, there have been seven school suicides in that very district over the last two years. (The district is being investigated by the Department of Justice.)
What’s important to remember is that these policies and Fowler’s bill is not really about free speech rights, but an explicit anti-LGBTQ agenda and attempt to block any policies that would actually make a difference. And considering this bill would be so broad to include protecting the “expression of religious, philosophical, or political views,” it could put a number of other students in danger as well; really, it would pretty much legalize bullying altogether. But make no mistake about it; this has nothing to do with protecting rights and everything to do with desperate attempts to protect and sustain bigotry — at the expense of students’ lives.