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Tennessee bill would largely ban Pride flags in public school classrooms

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The Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would broadly ban the display of LGBTQ flags in public school classrooms.

The 70-24 vote in the Republican-controlled House sends the bill to the Senate for a final vote, potentially as early as this week.

Republicans cut short the heated debate, with Democratic Rep. Justin Jones accusing House Speaker Cameron Sexton of being disorderly and ignoring people’s requests to speak. In response, Republicans gave Mr. Jones a false vote and canceled him from speaking immediately.

Earlier, Democrats and other opponents criticized the bill for unfairly restricting key symbols of the LGBTQ community in schools, with at least two opponents of the bill sitting on the sidelines to discuss the proceedings. I was kicked out.

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Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would broadly ban the display of LGBTQ flags in public school classrooms. (AP)

“When I go to public schools in my city and see LGBTQ flags flying in classrooms, I understand the pain that so many students are going through,” said Democratic Representative Jason Powell. I’m proud to see all the teachers holding it up proudly.” “Instead of hating our students, we should welcome and celebrate them.”

The bill defines “displaying” a flag by a school or employee as displaying or placing the item “anywhere the object may be viewed by students.”

This measure allows certain flags to be displayed except in a few scenarios. Approved flags include the U.S. flag, the Tennessee state flag, flags considered historical objects protected by state law, as well as flags for Native American tribes, local government forces, prisoners of war or missing in action, and those of other nations. Includes the flag of that municipality. , college, university, or school itself.

Other flags may appear temporarily as part of the “real” course curriculum. Under the bill, certain groups allowed to use school buildings would also be able to display flags when using the grounds.

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Tennessee House of Representatives Speaker Cameron Sexton

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville, R-Crossville) walks past protesters before the legislative session, which included a vote on a bill that would ban the display of LGBTQ flags in public school classrooms. (AP)

The bill would enforce the ban based on a lawsuit by the parent or guardian of a student attending or eligible to attend a public school in the school district in question. Lawsuits could challenge the display of flags by schools, employees, or their agents that do not fall under the proposed standards that would allow flags to be displayed in classrooms.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Gino Balso, said he had received complaints from parents about “political flags” in classrooms. When asked if the bill would allow the display of the Confederate flag, he said the bill would not change current law regarding when to display the Confederate flag. He said the bill’s exceptions could also apply to Confederate flags in approved curriculum and certain historical items that already cannot be removed without broad state approval.

“What we do is enable parents to instill the values ​​they want to instill in their children,” Bruso said.

The Senate bill would further limit who can sue over the flag, limiting it to students, students’ parents or employees at a particular school.

Tennessee Congressman Gino Balso

Tennessee Rep. Gino Balso (R-Brentwood) has introduced a bill on the House floor that would ban the display of Pride flags in schools while Congress is in session. (AP)

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to town, school, and school district officials saying that based on First Amendment precedent, “public schools may “Private speech on campus can be prohibited.” , or interfere with the rights of other students. ”

Barso said displaying the Pride flag does not protect the free speech rights of school employees.

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The bill comes as Tennessee Republicans have already moved to restrict classroom conversations about gender and sexuality, ban gender reassignment treatment for minors and limit the events certain drag performers can attend. It has been submitted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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