Shannon’s Soapbox: Sex Education in Tennessee Schools


Shannon Taylor


Shannon Taylor Editor of The Dresden Enterprise & The Martin Post

A couple of weeks ago, my 14-year-old daughter brought home a permission slip to participate in a sex education course at school. I signed the permission slip. There was no information included on what would be taught, however, I didn’t think anything of it.

A week later, she brought home a booklet and said, “You’re going to want to look over this. I’m sure you will have PLENTY to say.” She was right.

The booklet, titled, “Grow 8: Great Relationships Optimize Worth” teaches abstinence. Not prevention. No coverage of birth control or condom usage is mentioned at all. We all know that telling teenagers to not have sex is NOT a deterrent. That was one of my first problems with the course.

The second was on the very first page where it tells girls to dress in modest and appropriate attire for “men.” It doesn’t state why to do that, but the implication is clear: girls who don’t dress modest might get raped. Tennessee politicians who came up with this crap really should visit the “what you were wearing” exhibit that shows outfits women were wearing at the time of their rape. I think they’d be surprised to learn that the outfits women were wearing don’t fit their promiscuous demographic….

The third problem with the booklet she brought home was “The Success Sequence.” It lists 3 steps for success for girls.

  • Finish School
  • Get a Job
  • Get married & have a kid

See anything wrong there? Why is a woman’s success dependent on getting married and having a child? Tennessee politicians are still living in the dark ages it seems.

This is taught statewide. In 2021, Senate Bill 1360 was enacted which stipulates that all local education agencies (LEAs) must provide family life education as “abstinence only” instruction. Senate Bill 3310, known as the “Gateway Law” also passed the same year which states that these programs are prohibited from including instruction on gateway sexual activity that would encourage youths to engage in non-abstinent behavior. The kicker is that educators who fail to comply with this can face punitive measures which include fines of $500.

Tennessee went a step further in Bill 1229, requiring schools to provide parental notification at least 30 days prior to instruction commencement and allowing parents to opt their child out. Bill 2557 was enacted in 2022 which prohibits schools from allowing entities who perform, provide referrals for, advocate for, or promote abortions from teaching family life education curriculum. But wait…it gets better.

This year, Tennessee Senate passed SB2767 (HB 2435) that requires public schools to show a fetal development video comparable to one produced by an anti-abortion group to all students.

The video must be 3 minutes, high quality, computer generated or high-definition ultrasound showing the vital organs in early fetal development. Tennessee Democrat Heidi Campbell called the video “offensively childish” and said that the video is “insulting to both women and the medical profession.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists were also critical of the video stating that it is misleading and amounts to anti-abortion information intended to “manipulate the emotions of viewers.”

The Senate rejected amendments as well, one that parents cannot opt their child out of watching the video.

Tennessee also has a bill on the floor regarding parental aiding of abortions for minors.

Tennessee HB1895, if passed, “creates the criminal offense of abortion trafficking of a minor; provides for a civil action against a person committing the offense of abortion trafficking of a minor for the wrongful death of an unborn child that was aborted.”

The bill is simple: if your child gets raped or has an unwanted pregnancy and you take that child across state lines to receive an abortion you will face charges of a Class C Felony which can carry up to $10,000 in fines and a 15-year prison sentence.

Tennessee law has very strict abortion bans, only containing exemptions for narrow instances of saving the mother’s life.

That’s okay. I look good in orange or stripes.

So what Tennessee politicians are telling us is that a girl’s worth is dependent upon what she wears, getting married and having a child to be successful, and that if you are raped or faced with an unwanted pregnancy - there’s no hope for you here and your parent will face prison time for helping you. Girls are not mature enough to vote until 18 years of age, but you’re mature enough to carry a child and be a mother.

Congrats Tennessee. A big round of applause for you. No wonder Tennessee is #12 nationwide for the highest number of STDs and #7 for highest teen pregnancies, but yes - let’s focus on “abstinence.” Or rather, how about we vote all of these old white men out of office and start seeing Tennessee become a better state that actually cares about their youth — after birth.