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Tennessee Censoring Education

By Thomas Matchell

On April 13, 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a new bill that restricts the teaching of certain topics of race, sexuality, politics, and other subjects in school. Prior to and after this bill was passed, other bills were put into place that revolved around the restriction of educations materials and resources offered to students. 

HB 800 – SB 1216, the bill passed, states, “Prohibits a public institution of higher education from taking certain actions with regard to divisive concepts and the ideologies or political viewpoints of students and employees,” the bill states schools must also, “conduct a survey of its students and employees to assess the campus climate with regard to diversity of thought and the respondents’ comfort level in speaking freely on campus and to publish the results on the institution’s website.” 

A subsection of the bill that was passed on April 4, 2022, the “Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022” states, “Requires each public school to maintain, and post on the school’s website, a list of the materials in the school’s library collection;” doing so “requires each local board of education and public charter school governing body to adopt a policy to establish procedures for the development and review of school library collections.” 

Becky Frank, Director of Library Services and Learning Resources, said, “At the moment, my understanding based on conversations with other library directors is that this bill specifically targets public schools in terms of the lower levels. Elementary schools and high schools and things like that, not necessarily Vol State as a public school in a community college setting, so it has not directly affected us yet. We are watching it very carefully, making sure that if the wording changes or if there are other things that are coming down the pike that we are taking precautions. In the meantime, we are trying to make sure that we are taking precautions and getting things in line, making sure our collections are aligning with some of the things that are in the act as much as we can.” 

English teacher, April Young says, “Institutions of higher learning must allow for the discussion of controversial topics in order to promote critical thinking. College students are adults, and they must be given the freedom to explore all topics so that they are prepared to navigate the myriad issues they will encounter in the world.” 

Volunteer State Community College has not yet been affected by the bills put in place. As of Sept. 2022, public schools K-12 are the only ones to be affected. 

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