It seems like state Rep. Steve Cookson (R-153) has been getting lots of grief about his proposed “Don’t Say Gay” law – so much so that he won’t talk to reporters from outside his district. He protests that he had no homophobic intent, no, not at all. As a matter of fact, he’s on the side of angels, interested in safeguarding the rights of families and learning itself.
In this news video he states that just wants to bring “families back into education, and, for those who don’t have that support, we’ll deal with those. … counselors have special training to help students when they’re under stress.” Also, for some reason, he seems to think that any mention of the fact that some people are not heterosexual might interfere with the “core curriculum.”
Just in case you’re interested, here’s the full text of Cookson’s proposed legislation, HB2051:
Not withstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.
Note the inclusion of “extracurricular activity” in the list of venues where it is verboten to mention sexual orientation? Gets at those pesky gay-straight student clubs that help create a climate of acceptance where the bullying to which so many gay adolescents are subjected can no longer exist. Can’t have that now, can we?
And about that core curriculum, as Randy Turner, a Joplin teacher, journalist and blogger, writes in a Huffington Post article (that, incidentally, speculates convincingly about the origin of Rep. Cookson’s brainchild):
Cookson and his co-sponsors are saying that if gay marriage, for example, or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell become campaign issues in this year’s presidential election, they cannot be discussed in high school government classes. Laws that are proposed in the state legislature itself would also be off-limits for discussion. Under Cookson’s reactionary law, teachers would be unable to address the kind of bullying that often takes place because of students’ sexual orientation.
I just have one thing to add: If Cookson’s bill is all about sweetness and light, why, then, is it so punitive, so concentrated on prohibiting free and open communication? As Mark Jones of the Missouri National Education Association says in the video report above, the bill would only “further ostracize children who are exploring their sexual orientation.”
I’m truly sorry that Rep. Cookson is receiving violent threats – that’s just wrong. However, I would like to know how many of the emails he is receiving involve nothing more than the strong disapproval that we all have to feel when we see legislators threatening children and their teachers in the service of an ugly and bigoted agenda.