StudentsFirst chooses anti-gay Tennessee representative as its reformer of the year
According to a Huffington Post article John Ragan, a Tennessee State House representative, was named an educational reformer by StudentsFirst. Gay and lesbian students in the US southern state know Ragan all too well. He’s one of the co-sponsors of a controversial bill requiring teachers to out students to parents.
Michelle Rhee is the the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst. Between 2007 and 2010 she was the chancellor of pubic schools in Washington, DC. According to the organization’s website the group’s mission is to ‘build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education.’
Ragan’s legislation is known as HB 1332. It is similar to a bill that was defeated in 2012, but now includes a line that forces any adult in a school, who counsels a child about sexuality that poses ‘immediate and urgent safety issues,’ to notify parents ‘as soon as practicable.’
State Senator Stacey Campfield, another bill sponsor, insists ‘acts of homosexuality’ are dangerous to a child’s health.
According to the Huffington Post, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, argued the bill is a disaster for LGBT children.
‘It’s inexcusable to make counseling professionals out LGBT or questioning young people to family members, when all too many parents physically abuse their LGBT children, force them into quack "reparative therapy" programs, or kick them out of their homes. This disgraceful bill pays lip service to student safety, but in reality it puts vulnerable young people at terrible risk.’
On its site, StudentsFirst says ‘Ragan has consistently voted to do right by kids when it comes to education.’
UPDATE: Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, emailed Gay Star News the following statement:
‘As the House sponsor of the "Don’t Say Gay" bill and as a past defender of the License to Bully bill, Rep. Ragan has a very well known record on educational issues in Tennessee,’ Sanders wrote. ‘These bills would have led to the outing of students and exposed them to further bullying. StudentsFirst could take steps to redeem their misplaced award by working to pass the Dignity for All Students Act–a real anti-bullying bill with enumerated protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and disability.’